Bridging the generational divide with shoulder pads, alchemy, and stupid ideas 

It’s TED time again. One Tuesday a month, we curate and share three short talks on a theme. This month, our in-house Tedster Lena Pelekoudas suggested we tackle the multigenerational workplace. 

Lena is a ClearGov market development executive, full-time Tufts grad student, and a volunteer with TEDxCambridge, one of the longest-running and largest independently organized TED events in the world. Clearly, she knows her stuff and her TED Talks. Lena’s also a millennial, although she just makes the cutoff for identifying as Gen Z (at least according to Pew Research).

As someone who also straddles the fuzzy line between generations myself (I’m either a very young Baby Boomer or a very old Gen X-er), it’s hard to know which stereotypes to embrace. Should I be a workaholic or a life-balance advocate? Should Lena be idealistic and determined or wary of debt? And who gets dibs on the avocado toast?

For the first time in the modern workplace there are as many as five generations congregating at the proverbial water cooler. And, if we’re to believe the stereotypes, it’s absolute mayhem. But, is it? Really? 

Researchers use generational cohorts to understand how formative experiences like world events ultimately shape who we are — and that’s important. Whether we were born pre- or post- 9/11 or came of age in a period of recession may influence our world view, but does it change how we come to work, or the talents we bring to the table?

In the links below you’ll see three entertaining and insightful takes on navigating today’s multigenerational workplace. Find out how shoulder pads, alchemy, and stupid ideas may or may not help to bridge the divide. Enjoy!

Watch: How generational stereotypes hold us back at work

Don’t believe everything you find on page one of your Google results. In this fun, 11-minute talk, social psychologist Leah Georges argues that an age diverse workplace may be easier to navigate than you think and far less adversarial than we’ve all been led to believe. 

Watch: What baby boomers can learn from millennials at work — and vice versa

Since roughly 40 percent of the municipal workforce is currently within five years of retirement, entrepreneur Chip Conley’s short talk on the merits of forming multigenerational teams seems particularly relevant. Conley makes a compelling case for finding the balance between wisdom and disruption (think Tony Bennet meets Lady Gaga).  

Watch: 8 Lessons on building a company people enjoy working for

In this fast, five-minute talk from “The Way We Work” series, Patty McCord dispenses eight valuable lessons that challenge traditional workplace conventions. The former chief talent officer at Netflix, McCord’s no-nonsense insights are profoundly relevant whether you work at a small startup, a big enterprise, or a local government. Lesson #1? We’re all adults (regardless of when we were born).

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