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Navigating Team Dynamics & Generational Differences

By Linda Favero

Navigating team dynamics and generational differences in the workplace is a hot topic for the professional group, Women in Environment (WIE). Coraggio was invited by WIE to lead an educational workshop that explored how to lead successful teams and improve strategies to communicate effectively in a multi-generational work environment.

As our workplace becomes more collaborative, we can benefit from our unique perspectives on teams. However, it can also create conflict if we don’t take the time to understand our differences. To be effective we need to understand how we come to work as individuals and how that may impact others. One lens of our uniqueness is our assigned generation based on markers related to historical events and technological innovations, according to the US Department of Labor. Considering these markers, five generations experience the workplace with different ethics and values, work and life approaches, and communication preferences.

The workshop created opportunities for increased communication among the generations and a great opportunity for the younger generations (Generation X and Millennials) to appreciate how the older generations (Traditionalists and Boomers) worked hard to create the opportunities younger generations benefit from now. Furthermore, the older generations could appreciate how the younger generations brought increased collaboration, employee engagement and technology efficiency.

As we seek to better understand one another, John Wallen’s The Interpersonal Gap model is a tool to assist individuals consider their intent and impact as we co-create communication. There are givers and receivers of information. We need to recognize we have our own filters (beliefs, theories, stories), and we send and receive messages that affect our behavior (words, tone of voice, face and body language). The goal is to understand how our generation may shape our filter and how the other person’s may shape theirs, hopefully narrowing the interpersonal gap.

As we move forward in our dynamic workplaces, consider these tips for managing the mix of generations, including:

  • Celebrate diverse perspectives
  • Build collaborative relationships
  • Understand life’s motivations
  • Mix traditional and technology-based forms of communicating
  • Ask for preferences

Our complex work environments warrant deeper understanding and innovative tools as we consider the intent and impact of our communication.

The sold-out WIE luncheon took place on Tuesday, August 7, at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Sixty-five women from the environment industry including engineers, lawyers and nonprofit leaders gathered to learn from Linda Favero, Principal and Sarah Lechner, Associate Principal. Click here to view their presentation.