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When you see a gray-haired executive in a suit talking to a twenty-something with body piercings, it may seem that the generation gap in the workplace is bigger than ever. But new research from the CCL shows that, fundamentally, people want the same things, no matter what generation they represent.

According to CCL’s Jennifer Deal, author of Retiring the Generation Gap: How Employees Young and Old Can Find Common Ground, the so-called generation gap is, in large part, the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding, fueled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.

Using thousands of leaders as subjects, Deal and her CCL colleagues conducted a study about generational conflict at work and what to do about it. She chose representatives from 5 generational groups: the Silents, born between 1925 and 1945; the Early Boomers, born between 1946 and 1954; the Late Boomers, born between 1955 and 1963; the Early Xers, born between 1964 and 1976; and the Late Xers, born between 1977 and 1982.

Results showed that many of the assumptions about each generation were exaggerated or untrue. The research also revealed that dealing effectively with people of other generations can be pretty straightforward.

The findings may surprise you. According to the study, the generations had similar values across the board. They all want leaders who are credible and trustworthy. Organizational politics is a problem for everyone. No one really likes change. Almost everyone wants a coach. And loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation.

Deal concluded that conflicts arising from generational differences are dwarfed by conflict stemming from other sources. So as a leader, you now have the opportunity — and obligation — to let go of your assumptions about generational differences. Say goodbye to the generation gap, and spend time getting to legitimate sources of most workplace problems.

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