QUESTION: I work in a small group full of men and women in my office. Our ages vary along with our job titles.
A couple of the younger ones have seniority over the older ones.
Unfortunately this comes with hurt feelings and lack of productivity.
How do I help women and men of all ages get along and ignore these personal insecurities?
Should I just ignore the office politics, or get my supervisor involved?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: If this is affecting your work I would suggest getting your supervisor involved.
That being said, focus on YOUR job and YOUR productivity.
That is the most important!
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Are you having problems with these issues yourself or are you just witnessing them?
Whether these office politics are affecting your ability to do your job or not might change your approach.
Our 20-40-60 etiquette panel addressed some of these issues during a recent discussion with the Oklahoma City chapter of the Association for Women in Communications, and we realized during this discussion that generational conflicts appear to happen frequently.
Sometimes the misunderstandings start over something that seems insignificant, like with cultural references to current or previous TV shows, actors and singers.
A younger person might not understand specific references to the popular '90s sitcom, like “Seinfeld,” while an older one might not know who rapper Wiz Khalifa is.
Using references specific to a generation can breed disconnect between groups.
The more you can bring people together to understand the strengths and value that each age group brings to the group (historical perspective of the company, fresh enthusiasm for the latest technology, for example), the better off morale in the office will be.
Enlist a supervisor to launch these discussions if you can. If the workplace conflicts are affecting your ability to do your job, then you'll have to address those specifically with the people involved.
HELEN'S ANSWER: Since there are many younger people in charge of departments of older workers in today's corporate life, it makes sense that all of these people can learn from each other.
The ones who have been there awhile can provide company information about the past and can share long-term views.
Sometimes they are invaluable in working with longtime clients.
The younger workers have great ideas too and are smart and darling!
You sound like someone who gets along with everyone and are probably in the younger age bracket.
Just do your job with the best of your ability.
If you are in charge of some of the people who are not being productive, by all means involve the supervisor.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman night news editor and Media Ethics Chair, University of Central Oklahoma: This is a tough one, and a long answer.
You don't say if you are a manager with supervisory duties over any of the employees in your group.
Assuming you do not have such duties, the real questions are, do you get involved with the management of people who do not report to you?
And could this jeopardize YOUR job?
Answering a few questions might help you make an ethical decision whether to report the young managers to your supervisor:
Is the supervisor violating any employment laws with these employees?
Is the supervisor creating a hostile work environment by singling out these employees?
Is the supervisor discriminating against them based on age?
If the answer is no, and feelings are hurt solely based on the fact that young people are supervising older employees, I'd say that's something for them to work out, not you.
Also, if the young person is new to the position, he or she might have difficulty managing newfound power.
You appear to be the peacemaker, and that's a fine role.
Your ability to get along with everyone could go a long way toward keeping your workplace drama-free.
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email helen. firstname.lastname@example.org. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.