Social Scientist Joseph Grenny On How To Overcome The Generational Divide In Workplace

By Nafisa Dahodwala

New York Times bestselling author and social scientist Joseph Grenny, shares his insights on creating a beneficial social system in a multigenerational workplace.

Tatler Asia

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"She is always talking about her kids. How does it matter to me? " -  A 25-year-old Millennial.

"He parties every weekend. Do people even do that nowadays!"– A 37-year-old GenX

"We always worked long hours back in the day. The people here just lack the dedication." – A 50-year-old Baby Boomer.

These are some of the common snippets of conversation that we can often overhear by the water dispenser in the pantry, over the Xerox machine or in office washrooms.

What many of us might wave off thinking ‘it’s just a generation thing,’ is an alarmingly serious issue in multigenerational workplaces often escalating into a significant challenge for organisations.

A research conducted by VitalSmarts, a leadership training company in USA and social scientist Joseph Grenny shows that in a typical corporate setup, people waste 12% of their week due to unaddressed issues between colleagues of different generations! 

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What can we do about it?

In a presentation held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on July 17 by Crucial Skills Leadership Centre,  Joseph Grenny addressed the issue of the great generational divide and put forth a simple solution that does wonders in bridging the generational gap – Talk.

“If you don’t talk it out, you will act it out. It is all about holding that one crucial conversation that will alter the further course of action,” said the social scientist who has also coauthored four New York Times bestsellers on business and leadership.

He further added that by learning a few skills anyone can hold and handle a crucial conversation effectively about virtually any topic.

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Here are some skills you need to master for when the stakes are high, emotions run strong, the pressure is getting to you and yet, the conversation that you need to hold must be crucial.

Master the story

Whether we realise it not, we are often telling ourselves tatler_tatler_stories. Stories that we might build from an infinite number of facts and design according to our emotions clouded by judgements and opinions that we have for others.

Before holding a crucial conversation, make sure to separate the facts from the tatler_tatler_stories and effectively discuss only those. If required, retrace your path to action one element at a time before you arrive at the ‘real story’ and understand what is bothering you.

Make it safe

Before you embark on the journey of holding a crucial discussion, make sure to clarify that your intent of this conversation is to achieve a mutual goal and not a medium to lash out your feelings and opinions. Encourage them to share their concerns with you as well, without getting edgy or defensive.

Creating a psychologically safe environment reassures your colleagues of your positive intentions and adds more value to the conversation.

Hold the right conversation (CPR)

You know what you want to express. Your colleague is comfortable at this point too. What happens next? Do you launch into a 20-minute long monologue about the underlying issue?

To help unbundle an important conversation, analyse what about the predicament is bothering you the most. Is it the consequence of the situation (content), the recurrence of behaviour (pattern) or your communication with others (relationship). Once you have that sorted, it all boils down to a few minutes of smart talk to convey your feelings without damaging the trust factor of your co-workers.

For the past thirty years, Joseph has conducted social science research with the goal to help leaders and organisations achieve new levels of performance focusing specifically on human behaviour.

For more written and unwritten rules that can speed up your ability to holding that right conversation, click here.

To gain a better perspective on becoming an effective leader and enhancing your professional skills, visit the Crucial Skills official website.

(Photos: Crucial Skills)

Channel your emotional intelligence and learn how to keep up with the insane corporate rat race with Emotional GRIT.  

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