Bridging The Generational Divide in The Workplace


Before we start, let me just give a clue when  Not to read this article; Simply if you are a startup, or you are a single- generation operation. But even in this case, you will need it soon, sooner than you think, when you start to expend and rely on people less senior than your pioneering  generation!

Then, just a note about this article’s readership:

  • If you are a senior who has a say in some development  operation and want some smoothening in its flow, or
  • You can also be a junior, and you are looking for better environment to work with or wanting to increase your awareness about the Best Selection for Your Employer.

Now, let’s get started.

it’s everywhere from family to communities of all types, so why not businesses? Deny it or admit it, it’s inseparable from modernity and change mankind is witnessing today. We are talking here about The Generational Divide.

We, Technology People, lie in the focus of change in everything that is happening today,  tomorrow and maybe till  some sort of apocalypse takes over human civilization. “Generations” in anything we do or make are counting faster than ever, so why not counting in “Us”?  We cross generations in the workplace faster than any industry or any other social structure one would think of. We, therefore, are more exposed to the backfire of Generational Divide than all other social structures.

In fact, I’m one of those who saw the phenomena hiding behind a lot of issues in the industry over the last decade . With the accelerating industry pace in the recent few years, the years of the Digital Transformation, I think that the divide is getting wider and deeper, with all the deterrents  that can easily hit the workplace and negatively impact quality of our products, the wellbeing of our people and hence the wellness of our businesses.

In this treatise, I’m presenting my experience about   Generational Divide in the development workplace, the way it affects our teams and processes and finally disclose some of the remedies that I’ve successfully tried to lessen or even eliminate any unwanted effects caused by it.

Defining Generations at The Technology Workplace

Let’s begin where we should: Defining those “generations” that may divide or engage!

Demographically speaking, we have a generation Y, the cohort born during the 80’s and the early  90’s. Then came Generation Z, people born  near (or after) millennium. Generation X are those seniors before the two. This is a pure demographic thing, just a base for our classification.

From a technology perspective, the natural distribution implies  that we have a minority of X people in service (I’m one of those!), a minority from Z (They are now  in the pipeline, but maybe they have already informally joined  before they graduate) and a majority from Y cohort. X People are those who witnessed the pre-web era, they usually designed, wrote and implemented clerical type applications run by specialized clerks behind the screens, usually in a waterfall development fashion. The Y Cohort started the challenge of writing web-based applications run by anyone who can be a probable beneficiary of the  app, most likely using some agile method, with mobile devices replacing desktop screens gradually. The  Z cult is just joining  in an age of data and apps mobility and agility.

You can see now how the demographic  and the technology perspective intersect.

Now, to simplify reference throughout the discussion , we will redefine “generations” as those three cohorts we usually  encounter in the development workplace:

  • X People: Pre-web Culture, but that of course does imply “pre-web knowledge”,
  • Y  People: Web culture Higher-ups and leaders and/or  more senior staff, and
  • Z  People: Post-web or Digital Age Culture. These are the less seniors from the Y group who are either  lesser ranked  leaders and/or  in-cubical developers, joined gradually by the pure demographically Z flow coming from education. We will call these, collectively, generation Z.

While mentalities, knowledge and  guts may diverse in the one workplace, one thing remains constant for all: The Challenges, and that’s exactly y where things can start to harmonize.

Well and  Good, so where is that divide, indeed!