It turns out that most people believe variety is the spice of life, at least in terms of working in an environment that includes people of all ages. In their second quarter report on work insights for 2018, the employment agency Randstad indicated that 86 percent of survey respondents indicated that they prefer to work on teams with many age groups represented.

Most respondents also stated that working with others 10 to 15 years older or younger than them is highly beneficial. People in various age groups often come up with innovative ideas that their older or younger counterparts might not have considered. Employees who work in an environment that’s intentionally empathic especially value what their co-workers bring to any discussion. A respectful, inclusive environment is essential to foster this attitude. Rather than competing for credit, co-workers encourage one another and feel just as excited about someone else’s idea as they do their own.

Communication Challenges Across the Generations

Although most workers see the benefits of working with co-workers of all ages, they admit to some challenges as well. For example, more than 80 percent notice a difference in communication styles according to general age range. Further, almost 40 percent find it challenging and even frustrating to communicate with people much older or younger than themselves. Managers can set the expectation here by demonstrating how they tailor their speech and feedback according to the person’s age. Doing so not only makes for more effective communication, it shows empathy for the other person’s vantage point in life.

How Employees Feel About the Age of Their Manager

Age really is just a number when it comes to employee preferences in managers. Rather than a certain age category or even specific qualifications, the top trait that team members desire in a manager is that he or she be motivational. The manager’s age comes lower on the list, with three-quarters of survey participants stating they prefer to report to someone the same age or older than themselves. Among workers considered part of the millennial generation, this number jumps to 92 percent.

How Managers Can Best Motivate Their Employees in an Empathic Workplace

A manager of any age can come across as motivating to his or her team members by first understanding their needs. For example, what areas does each person excel at and where could the employee use more encouragement to get past the hesitation to take on a new task or process? Taking the time to learn these things about workers allows trusting relationships to flourish and true appreciation for a multi-generational workforce.

An empathic and inspiring manager listens to people with understanding and openness. By not giving into distractions, managers learn more about the challenges their employees face and can help them develop new ways to tackle them. When a person has an empathic manager, he or she doesn’t fear failure because the manager will move past blame towards a useful learning experience. Managers in tune with their teams understand the real reason for poor performance and can address it quickly and with compassion.

As in all areas of leadership, employees take their cue on how to interact with co-workers from different generations from their manager. That’s why it’s especially important that leaders speak to everyone in a respectful manner and from a place of deep empathy.