Avoid The Clash Of Generations

Avoid The Clash Of Generations

by Jim Olsztynski | October 30, 2023 | Blog Essential Industry Getting Started in the Trades Skilled Labor Shortage | 0 Comments

One of the reasons it’s such a good time to enter a skilled trade is because the existing work force is rapidly aging. The average trade worker Is over 50 years old and approaching retirement. Employers are desperate to recruit enough replacements.


That’s the good news for young people entering the trades. The bad news is that generational clashes often result between older workers and their replacements.


Older trade workers grew up in a different social and economic era than those of you in your teens, 20s or 30s. Most of them don’t have computer skills as advanced as yours, if they have any at all. Many of them learned their craft from “my way or the highway” bosses and have carried that over now that they are in charge. Many of them learned to do jobs a certain way and aren’t open to new ideas. Because of their long tenure, many of them will be your bosses at the beginning stage of your career. How you handle generational conflicts with so-called “dinosaur” bosses will go a long way to determine whether you are happy with your chosen career or dread going to work each day.


One tip I would give is to abide by the universal rule of respecting your elders – even if deep down you know they are wrong. This doesn’t mean blindly following their way of doing things. It means using gentle persuasion to convince them that your way is a better way. Explain in detail why you favor a certain product or technique.


Often, it’s not what you say but the way you say it that leads to conflict. Watch your tone of voice. Nobody likes a know-it-all smart aleck. Speak to them diplomatically: “I respect your experience, but let me explain why I think a slightly different approach will save time/money/lead to better performance.”


Speak slowly to elders in authority and express yourself as clearly as possible. Try to eliminate speech tics like “um” and “like.” To old guys like me they sound like chalk screeching on a blackboard. (I love my grandchildren, but feel like slapping them upside the head every time they preface statements with “Like … etc.”


One final tip: don’t automatically assume you know more than the experienced veteran. Just as you should explain in detail why you think you have a better idea, listen to what they have to say and don’t be afraid to ask for further explanation. “Why do you think that works better? What’s the advantage?” You just might find out that you don’t know it all after all.


Even if you’re right, you will lose in the long run if you argue. Arguments create a toxic work environment. If you truly believe you know better ways of doing things, use your your vocal cords to persuade with a soothing ballad rather than heavy metal.