How to Connect With Younger Colleagues

How to Advance Your Career

Generation Z - Young People - Selfie

Whether you're in your 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, you probably work with at least a few people who are younger than you. Some of them might even be your superiors -- now or in the future.

"Thirty-five percent of the labor force is comprised of Millennials, making it the largest generation in the U.S. workplace. Not to mention the fact that Generation Z is also now entering the workforce in big numbers," author Lindsey Pollak writes in an article for The Muse. "So if you're in Generation X or older, chances are you'll soon be surrounded by younger co-workers -- if you're not already."

Because of their large numbers, how you relate to younger co-workers could have major implications for your career. It therefore pays to build positive relationships that span generational divides.

Like it or not, that often requires conforming to young peers' ways of working. Consider, for example, communication.

"I love email, and I'm guessing my fellow Gen X-ers and baby boomers agree. But if you work with a younger peer, you may also find yourself being contacted via an emoji-laden text or asked to pivot your project communication to Slack," Pollak says. "Turns out that 80 percent of today's workers say the primary difference between generations in the workplace is communication styles -- and if you're the only one clinging to your inbox, you might be the one who needs to change."

If you really feel out of touch with your co-workers, it might be time to consider "reverse mentoring." "For years, reverse mentoring was shorthand for teaching old fogeys how to use 'the Facebook.' But in the workplace it can take on so many other forms, and it's worth considering even if your tech skills are on point," Pollak notes. "Be open to learning more about your younger peers' strategies for getting to inbox zero or using apps to organize their to-do lists. Who knows, you might actually pick up something new and insightful from an unexpected source."

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