It's been more than a month since I ran comments from a number of readers challenging the notion that a generation gap among hospital staff can cause workplace friction. Since then, I've received a steady stream of comments on the subject. About 65 percent of respondents said clashes between older and younger colleagues is a fact of life in their organization while the other 35 percent said there is no such thing as a generation gap or, in any case, tension is normal on any job site and is unrelated to differences in age.
Here is a selection of readers' responses:
The differences between age groups are real, but they are generalizations that will not always be true. Those of us over 50 are generally slower to learn IT stuff, but, of course, that will not apply to all people over 50. In other words, as a generalization, it is true, but on an individual basis, it may not be true. The same goes for each of the other groups. Anyway, managers should know and understand the generations to better understand their people. Another important resource is The Birth Order Book. The more we understand our employees, superiors, customers, the better manager we will be. We tend to assume that everyone is like we are. Of course they are not, and for very good reasons, such as when they were born, and in what birth order they were born. — Robert R. Bash, FACHE, CEO and Administrator, Doctors Hospital at Deer Creek, Leesville, La.
You took the time … and the deep breath and wrote about it … acknowledged it. Though I see many of the comments you published being spot-on. As much as I generalize drivers being on the phone as a certain generation, each time you pull away from someone texting/swerving etc., it ends up being a person of ANY age/sex. Marty Cooper, the man who led the team that developed the Motorola cellular phone, said it best on 60 Minutes, "You know, it doesn't take a telephone to make people be either stupid or rude." The issue we find with most people isn't generational … CULTURAL? … maybe. So then we're faced with watching Trading Places with Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy and evaluating the age/culture/environment. The hospitals that don't expect any problems with the age gaps won't find any. The hospitals that DO expect issues? Well, they will find them .— Jon A Morehouse, Director, Supply Chain Management, St Joseph Mercy Health System, Ann Arbor, Mich.
I work at a large hospital system, and have worked at other similar systems prior to this one. I'm a "Gen-Y" but I would agree with the skeptical comments for the most part. There are some minor generational differences, but not that lead to recurrent conflicts. More likely they result in good-natured ribbing. There are good workers and bad workers in every age group, and conflicts are as likely within as across them. To me, more significant is that most health care environments are unique vs. most other industries because of differing gender balances. It used to be that only physicians and maintenance were male-dominated, but now younger physicians are slightly more likely to be female. This isn't a bad thing, but it creates both challenges and benefits for men in such settings. Challenges because men in health care have to hone their communication style, and benefits because of the frequent comments one hears from female colleagues that they wish there were more males around to balance things out! Enjoy your columns and H&HN. Thanks. — Dan Gaskell, Inpatient Rehab Therapy Manager, Carilion Clinic Rehabilitation Services, Roanoke, Va.
What I see in facilities is there are a few places where there are generational issues. But I find they are because of managers who will not confront the issue. Where I see the problems are with position gaps. What I mean is that people in "higher" positions (for want of a better word) are not recognizing the work of the others. Honestly, I wonder sometimes if this type of person realizes how work gets accomplished in an organization. — Ruth E. Brenner, Education & Resource Coordinator, GRASP Systems International, Fort Collins, Colo.
I am 68 years old and do generational conflict in health care workshops. I would suggest that all who comment on this topic start by reporting their age. I think it would lend greater clarity to your discussion, and, yes, I think those who are older health care professionals tend to dismiss the generational conflicts more readily. It has also been my experience that they are also more likely to be the persons exacerbating the conflicts, in part because they are reluctant to evaluate their behavior in their relationships with the emerging generations. As one Gen Y health care professional noted, "We are more able to deal with the criticism than many older colleagues because we are subjected to so much of it." — Anonymous
I am surprised at how people seem to speak in absolutes. Of course, there are generational conflicts in every workplace. Those conflicts are either dealt with well or they are not and that has something to do with the culture and collegiality of the workplace. Also, it may only come up at certain flash points such as when there is a lay-off contemplated or other cutbacks or staffing issues. Younger people think that the older workers should step aside. Older people think they are entitled to whatever spoils are available because of what they have given over the years to the organization. — Anonymous