Advice on bridging group relations, from Sidney

I work with a lot of younger people who I find lazy and self-absorbed. When I try to give them advice, they don’t seem to listen and want to do things their own way. The other day one of them said to me “OK, Boomer”. What am I doing wrong?

I am a Gen X, and I am going to give it to you straight. The fact that you find your younger colleagues lazy and self-absorbed is disrespectful and reveals more about you than them. If you want to feel any respect from your colleagues, you will need to respect them first.

“OK, Boomer” is not a term of endearment and perhaps demonstrates the challenges your colleagues have relating to you. Good working relationships take effort from both sides, so it might be time to try a little harder with them. Should “OK, Boomer” come up again, why not ask your younger colleagues if something is cheugy and see how that conversation goes!

As one of the more experienced employees, you have a responsibility to cultivate a workplace of inclusion. Rather than feeling threatened by younger members of your team – who bring much welcome energy, ideas and diversity to work – I would encourage you to seek to understand them. Consider asking your workplace to set up a reverse mentoring plan where you can get to know some of your younger colleagues on a deeper level so you can learn from them and feel able to work more cooperatively together.

The Sidney Morning Herald might be pointing out the obvious here– but can’t this bit of advice be applied to just about any two groups lacking compatibility? Divide them up by generation, race, occupation, income…we like to hang with our own. Hence it is a sacrifice of time, an expenditure of effort, a potential loss in some way, to ‘see it from their point of view’ and fill in the gap in order to bridge a cultural divide.

The journalist goes onto say that “good working relationships take efforts from both sides.” Too true for a public of two, or an organization, or a city. One side may have to initiate interaction but the other must also be receptive. The exchange requires more effort. This effort is called work.

The interesting measure is the capacity of the organizational group to do the work necessary to bridge the subgroups into one.