Workplace dynamics: Younger vs older employees

We'd all agree that working with younger people has its advantages and disadvantages, as does working with more seasoned coworkers.

But what one finds to be a pro or con about a certain age group really depends on their own age, experience, and other factors.

In general, though, you can probably pinpoint a few characteristics of younger and older employees that would hold no matter where you work.

For starters, many younger employees -- those in their 20s and 30s -- are eager to prove themselves, sometimes leading them to angle for the big projects and clients before they've earned their stripes (much to the chagrin of some bosses who want to keep those for themselves).

While people can still be ambitious in their 50s and 60s, they may not be as aggressive in showcasing their skills or fishing for plum projects. At this juncture, they're usually settled and averse to job hopping, especially as they eye retirement.

I've also observed that younger employees seem more disposed toward doing things after work -- like Happy Hour -- than their older peers. And it makes sense: Older folks are more likely to be married, have kids, and shoulder more responsibilities than the twenty- and thirty-somethings they work with.

What's more, the older crowd's clubbing and bar hopping days are probably well behind it; in all likelihood, they would rather invest their time in such leisurely pursuits as fine dining, reading, and traveling.

At the end of the day, what makes a pleasant working environment isn't so much how old people are, but other factors including:

  • How easy they are to work with
  • What their personalities are like
  • How much you have in common 
  • The workplace culture
When it comes to change, older people tend to be more obstinate, or set in their ways. On the other hand, they bring more work experience to the table than their younger counterparts and can make great mentors.

Younger employees, moreover, can infuse the workplace with unbridled energy and be a wellspring of information on topics that might go over older employees' heads. Have a question about your iPhone? How to tag friends on Facebook or retweet on Twitter? Chances are your millennial coworker will know the answer.

Without a doubt, younger and older employees can make great assets to an organization. Age in itself isn't all that important; respecting and having things in common with each other carries far more weight in the grand scheme of things.

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