I've written before about the need to support Gen-Z and their quest to change the world. They're more socially aware than those who came before. They have a greater desire to re-shape the world, and they're at the vanguard of what the future of our organizations and species will look like for the generations coming after.

The 'OK Boomer' meme, which arose over the last few weeks, marks a turning point in our current inter-generational relationships. With five distinct groups now represented in our organizations, it's getting harder to prevent these online turf wars from spilling over to the workplace.

If you lead a multi-generational team, here are four ways to help neutralize conflict and get the most from every age group.

1. Openly embrace differences.

The beauty of a multi-generational team is that you'll have a broader diversity of thought than a group with less representation. There's no question that a Boomer is going to see the world differently than a Millennial or an X-er differently than a Z-er. That doesn't necessarily mean one is better than the other.

If you positively affirm the validity of each group's perspective and encourage debate and discussion between them, you'll end up with better reasoned and more robust decisions.

2. Play to their strengths.

Most of the narrative around generations is negative. Millennials are lazy, Boomers are out of touch, and X-ers are too cynical. Instead of focussing the conversation on the negatives, encourage your team to play to their positives.

Boomers bring years of experience and knowledge they can pass along. Z-ers bring a desire to effect change that can help a team approach things with an innovative mindset. 

When you combine the strengths of each member of your team rather than focus on their weaknesses, you build a more collaborative and creative environment.

3. Be transparent in conflict.

Bringing full transparency to a conflict should be your approach, no matter who is involved or what the issue at hand is. That's never more important than when dealing with inter-generational strife. Allowing people on your team to grumble or fester will only lead to bigger blow-ups at a later date.

When you sense frustration, call it out. Ask what's behind the issue and build a safe environment for your team to discuss their challenges with each other. You'll find that it's easier to deal with the conflict when you shine a light on it rather than allowing it to hide in the dark.

4. Work for the betterment of the team.

Above all, make it abundantly clear that your role as a leader is to help your team achieve their common goals and in doing so, become the best version of themselves. 

That means that no one approach, perspective, or voice should dominate every discussion or decision. So long as you instill the desire to work for the betterment of the team into your people, you should be able to assuage some of the inter-generational conflicts before they arise.

Published on: Nov 7, 2019
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