Multigenerational workforces present multiple challenges as different workers' various work styles, communication methods and values clash and produce inevitable conflicts. Older workers can often be settled in their ways and have a little more difficulty understanding other perspectives. Likewise, employees from younger generations may be overly energetic and prone to ignoring older voices.
Sandwiched in between the two, Generation X workers may be neither as rigid as older employees nor as impulsive as younger ones. Thus, they may be called on to be a bridge within the multigenerational workforce, connecting both ends of the working-age spectrum with wisdom, humor, and skill.
Why Generation X is an ideal bridge between the cohorts within the workplace
Generation Xers are descended from the Baby Boomers and many of them raised the Millennials. As such, Gen Xers are in the perfect position of understanding the desires, needs, ideas, and personalities of both sides. They can serve as "translators" of sorts, helping older and younger workers better understand each others' objectives, desires, and personalities.
Of course, every individual worker comes to the team with different perspectives and viewpoints. However, society, history, and politics play a large role in the creation of those perspectives. The social and environmental forces which form individuals' viewpoints can produce certain similarities within a cohort while separating them ideologically from another age cohort.
Because Generation Xers have experienced the greatest number of social, political, environmental events in common with both the Boomers and the Millennials, they are, in essence, an amalgamation of the two cohorts, and can better understand and adapt to the thought processes of both. Therefore, Gen Xers are best able to understand both sides in case of an intergenerational conflict and serve as fair-minded mediators, making both parties feel heard and acknowledged while helping each to better understand the other.
Gen Xers also tend to have a better-developed sense of humor that older and younger coworkers can understand and appreciate. As members of the sandwich generation, Gen Xers have had to navigate heavy familial responsibilities, juggling care for children with care for parents and elderly relatives. Challenges provide the opportunity to utilize creative coping measures such as humor, and hard-working Gen Xers often have developed a strong sense of humor and perspective to cope with their various duties. This type of light-hearted perspective is invaluable in the workplace, helping employees and their colleagues relieve stress, develop community, and be more happy and productive overall.
Generation X is sometimes known as the "forgotten generation," but this work hard, play hard generation is actually critical to a healthy and thriving multigenerational work environment. They bring valuable insight and experience, knowledge and personality to the table, bridging gaps between older members of the workforce and young arrivals into the business world, serving as assistants for the former and mentors for the latter. If you are in charge of a multigenerational workforce, be sure to include several Gen X members to help stabilize and improve your company culture.