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Smart Solutions to Manage The Generation Gap Vol. 2 No. 2

Welcome to our latest edition, which illustrates intergenerational dynamics at the workplace, intergenerational conflict, teamwork and how to gain more benefit from organisational diversity.

To managers that want coaching or training in these areas, please e-mail me on 
view or call me on +31 6308 85046.
Spotlight on intergenerational teams:
  • The Intern – a great De Niro & Hathaway movie on intergenerational teams
  • Communicating across the generations
  • Real-life example of how intergenerational conflict can escalate
  • Our solution ... diversity eloquence!
  • Possible sources of intergenerational conflict
  • Mistakes to avoid in intergenerational team conflicts
  • Are your leaders abusive?
  • Best intergenerational tips for managers with Hi-Po teams
  • Top tips for Hi-Po talent on working with their managers
  • Updates from our partner organizations

New De Niro, Hathaway movie about intergenerational teamwork

The Intern movie: Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower who has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Communicating across the generations

What is missing from this list are the Generational chameleons who are present in each generation. These are rare individuals who have the ability to adapt with each generation. They have fewer biases and consequently do not fit neatly into any group.

How intergenerational team conflict can escalate 

Based on a true story: Pieter is a 55-year-old senior engineering consultant in the Netherlands. After a colleague fell ill, he was asked to ‘adopt’ a team of high potentials (Hi-Po’s) who were young, bright and enthusiastic and had been hand-picked by HR with the aim of nurturing their talents. Here is what happened:

Pieter’s perspective
Soon after his first interaction with this group Pieter started to have doubts about the team's potential as he expected much more from these “bright sparks”. He grew increasingly unhappy with the team and made a point of communicating his disappointment with them to anyone and everyone who would listen.
“They don’t seem that smart. The output of their work is substandard. They’re continually late for meetings and have absolutely no respect for my authority. In my day, all we needed was a kick …... These youngsters need to grow up and take life more seriously.”
Pieter felt he was very open and approachable. He felt that he was continually making concessions to meet them and to accommodate their specific needs.
He thought “They have an attitude problem and need to be toned down a few notches”.

The Hi-Po team’s perspective
The team’s motivation started to decline. They became more and more disengaged from their projects and felt that work was becoming unbearable.
“The man is like an army sergeant”.
Before a site visit Pieter e-mailed the team a list of rules on how to ‘behave’. This made them feel they were being treated like children!
“He never gives clear feedback and he makes the team set ridiculous deadlines that even he cannot meet. He is continually complaining about punctuality, but he is not setting an example either. As a group, we’ve tried to talk to him about the situation numerous times, but he is unwilling to enter any form of dialogue”.
“He is inconsistent. In a recent project review, one of the team members got a terrible rating, even though she had pulled the project through. When she was discussing this with him, he suddenly changed his mind and gave her a better rating. He seems to have his favourites and rates them better than the rest of the team, even if they are not performing as well.”
The young talented team lodged a formal complaint against the manager.
Things escalated when HR was asked to step in. 


Our solution ...develop Diversity IQ!

Diversity eloquence (i.e. the ability to work in a multicultural, mixed-gender, intergenerational context) allows you to gain deeper insight into diversity issues and the unconscious biases we all have and that affect our responses to diversity. Our Diversity Eloquence solution enhances your ability to respond appropriately, and with less effort, to diverse settings and teams and to harness the strengths and creativity that diversity provides.
Do you want to reconcile dilemmas resulting from opposing intergenerational viewpoints that affect productive work relationships in your team or organization?
Misperceptions and unresolved or escalating conflicts between generations are exhausting. Often people ignore the situation for too long in the hope that it will get better of its own accord. However, this often reduces productivity, commitment and creativity.
Research clearly indicates that organizational performance benefits from diversity and that it is worth reconciling polarising differences.
Although intergenerational teams are common, productive work relationships are often deeply challenged by the people in them, ascribing different meanings to the same thing.
Engaging a Synquity coach to improve your diversity eloquence will save hours of frustration and help you restore a climate conducive to productivity, co-creation and teamwork.
Improve your diversity eloquence through our one-on-one coaching, team workshops and training courses on diversity eloquence and skills. This service is completely tailored to your organization, team and needs. Call me now on +31 6 3088 5046 or e-mail me on
Click : YES! I / we need diversity IQ coaching or training

Possible sources of intergenerational conflict    

Reference: The Divergent Generation: Will you be left factionless? Paper presented by Barron, Dykes, Gilbert, Lemaster and Whyte, ILA Conference, Barcelona, 2015 

Mistakes to avoid in intergenerational conflict 

  • Poor match between manager and Hi-Po team
  • Not alerting mixed-generational team of the possibility of upfront, unconscious biases and expectations
  • Allowing misperceptions to stockpile and reinforcing negative generational stereotypes
  • Exercising poor team practices (not clarifying goals or expectations upfront, absence of a forum for open communication, creating unsafe environment where people can’t learn from mistakes)
  • Incongruent and poor self leadership behaviour by manager (taking things personally and becoming insulting and attacking, publicly dumping negative perceptions about the team, becoming vengeful)
  • Reactive institutional support after problem arises (HR arbitrating communication and role expectations)
  • Absence of proactive mandate for good team practices, failure to train Hi-Po mentors and provide all-round education on good intergenerational dynamics and conflict-resolution mechanisms.

Are your leaders abusive?

Are your leaders abusive? Ethical? Transformational?

Try out these free quizzes by the Queen's School of Business and get feedback here:


Best intergenerational tips for managers with Hi-Po teams

  • Create productive and innovative conditions for development
  • Provide stretching assignments that balance skill and challenge: if an assignment lacks challenge, it will move the employee towards boredom. However, if the assignment is too challenging without the necessary skill, it will create anxiety. If the balance is right, excitement and flow will develop
  • Give permission to make mistakes – most is learnt from failure, and failure can often stimulate deeper creativity
  • Focus on and role model what is important vs. only responding to urgent directives
  • Provide appreciation and feedback – acknowledge a job well done, give people a chance to speak without interruption, continue treating people with respect vs. “inferior”
  • Create mutual understanding of communication e.g.:
    • Regularly meeting to review during project lifetime vs. only at the end
    • Face-to-face feedback vs. written
    • Discuss and consult vs. “tell, announce”
    • Create clear mutual expectations
    • Discuss goals upfront
    • Provide role-description parameters (“You are leading/and responsible”) or you are facilitating and learning, but the Manager is responsible”)
    • Indicate expected standard of performance

Top tips for Hi-Po talent on working with their managers

  • Step up to the plate
  • Show your team and manager what you’ve got: do the hard work and deliver results with your projects, showing your value to the team
  • Find ways to enhance your self-understanding and clarify what you want to achieve
  • Review your tasks, projects and loose ends weekly and re-organize yourself so you can focus strategically and know where you are going
  • Evaluate: even if no-one else is evaluating and giving you feedback, take the time to evaluate projects yourself
  • Take initiative
  • Let your manager and team know specifically how to guide you in achieving your growth goals
  • Communicate often with managers about your challenges, career goals, feedback and needs
  • Communicate often with managers to get to know their needs and expectations for projects, your role, etc.
  • If you don’t know what to do, take the first step to figure it out
  • Seek out mentors from inside or outside your organization and industry to provide you with valuable insights
  • Create networks of other young talent
  • Continue learning: on the job, from research, read books, look online… keep developing yourself
Click : YES! We need diversity IQ coaching or training


Updates from our Partner Organizations


Women in Business - 17 - 18 March 2016
This two-day workshop addresses the issues of women in business.

Communication with Power and Impact for Women - 12 April 2016 Good leaders are good communicators. Come and find out more.

 Fist Athena Award presented to Professor Dr Maria Grever in recognition of her contribution to promoting female talent. Professor Dr Maria Grever is the first recipient of this new award, which is intended for those who have made an exceptional contribution to promoting female talent and, as such, set an example for their colleagues. The Athena Award was set up by the Erasmus Network of Female Professors (ENVH).

Further details can be found at or contact our programme adviser Rianne van Reeuwijk

GLI’s new Leadership Quest App is now available.
For Global and Culturally Diverse Leaders and Leadership, edited by Jean Lau Chin, Joseph E. Trimble and Joseph E. Garcia:
How the Communal Philosophies of Ubuntu in Africa and Confucius Thought in China Might Enrich Western Notions of Leadership: Rob Elkington and Elizabeth Tuleja.
For Grassroots Leadership & The Arts For Social Change, edited by Susan Erenrich, and Jon Wergin:
The Notion of Ubuntu and Emergent Leadership as Expressed Through the Arts in Apartheid South Africa: Rob Elkington, Jennifer Moss and John Volmink.
GLI also offers online university-accredited leadership certificates at
GLI’s book Visionary Leadership in a VUCA World due for release in June 2016. Managing Editor: Madeleine van der Steege.

For more information contact Jill Sheen at UnitedSucces

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