Think the generation gap went out with bell-bottoms and love beads?\n\nThink again.More on CIO.com\nGeneration X: Stepping Up to the Leadership Plate\n\nManagement Techniques for Bringing Out the Best in Generation Y\n\nIn Defense of Gen Y Workers\n\nGen Y and Boomers: Stop Whining and Save Ferris\n\nTake a good look around your IT department. Who\u2019s that cohabiting in the cubes outside your door? Boomers and X-ers and Y-ers. Looks peaceful out there, doesn\u2019t it? Don\u2019t bet on it. What many CIOs fail to see are the generational tensions simmering among their employees that threaten to lower morale, increase turnover and hobble the IT department\u2019s ability to produce wins for the business.\n\n\u201cOne of the big struggles companies have is with people who are not playing well in the sandbox,\u201d says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing for Yoh, an IT talent and outsourcing services firm. \u201cAnd it\u2019s more pervasive when we talk about the situation we have between the generations.\u201d\n\nRelations among the generations seem to be at a low point. Gen Y (defined as people born after 1982) thinks Gen X (spawned between 1961 and 1981) is a bunch of whiners. Gen X sees Gen Y as arrogant and entitled. And everyone thinks the Baby Boomers (1943 to 1960) are self-absorbed workaholics. \n\nNone of this generational trash-talking surprises Linda Gravett and Robin Throckmorton, authors of Bridging the Generation Gap, which advises managers on how to minimize conflicts and miscommunication among the different age groups in order to get everyone working together.\n\n\u201cWe had a sense that there was tension,\u201d says Gravett, a human resources consultant. \u201cThis was confirmed in our research. We found there was a lot of generational tension around the use of technology and work ethics.\u201dWorking Hard or Hardly Working?\nGravett says their research showed that 68 percent of Baby Boomers feel \u201cyounger people\u201d do not have as strong a work ethic as they do and that makes doing their own work harder. Thirty-two percent of Gen X-ers believe the \u201cyounger generation\u201d lacks a good work ethic and that this is a problem. And 13 percent of Gen Y-ers say the difference in work ethics across the generations causes friction. They believe they have a good work ethic for which they\u2019re not given credit.\n\nTechnology is another flashpoint. In a survey conducted for job site CareerBuilder.com last year, nearly half the respondents noted Generation Y\u2019s preference to communicate via blogs, IMs and text messages, rather than on the phone or face to face, methods preferred by Boomers and Generation X. Technologically facilitated communication can feel abrupt and easily be misunderstood by Boomers and Gen X-ers.\n\n\u201cI don\u2019t need a Gen Y-er texting instead of building business relationships,\u201d says Mark Cummuta, who has served as a divisional CIO and director of business systems and information security for Platinum Community Bank. \u201cThey run the risk of eroding what we\u2019ve been doing to build a relationship of trust between the business and IT.\u201dWhy the Flashpoint Is Now\nGenerational clashes in the workplace are nothing new. What is new is the extent to which the retirement of the Boomers will leave employers scrambling to recruit and retain the talent they need. The American Society of Training and Development is predicting that 76 million Americans will retire over the next two decades. Only 46 million will be arriving to replace them. Most of those new workers will be Generation Y-ers.\n\nNo wonder that managing the generations effectively is emerging as one of the CIO\u2019s most important challenges.\n\nCummuta has experienced this challenge firsthand. \u201cDealing with these generations is part of your job as a manager and a leader,\u201d says Cummuta, who writes a blog for CIO.com.\n\nCIOs, however, often focus more attention on technology and process than on staff. Yet people are inarguably a CIO\u2019s most vital assets. IT departments need a high-octane mix of talent to deliver the improvements and innovation necessary to keep the business competitive. That mix can combust if IT leaders don\u2019t understand and respect the needs of each generation of workers.\n\nTo address the workforce challenges of the future, CIOs must transition their departments now. This means preparing staff and addressing issues that may be preventing, discouraging or undermining their ability to work in a collaborative manner.\n\n\u201cIn the Marines, you can\u2019t be selective; you have to take everyone,\u201d says Cummuta, who served in the Corps. \u201cThen, you have to build a cohesive team. As a CIO, you have to do the same thing.\u201dBest Practices for Managing the Generations\nCIOs have to acknowledge the generational tensions their employees may be feeling. To get everyone working together, they need to understand the unique strengths and weaknesses of each generation and identify the points of friction among them.\n\nTo jump-start that process, we\u2019ve put together a package of stories that explore this IT generation gap. In \u201cManagement Techniques for Bringing Out the Best in Generation Y,\u201d leadership consultant Deborah Gilburg profiles what\u2019s been called \u201cthe most high-maintenance, yet potentially most high-performing generation\u201d ever and outlines best practices that can help CIOs recruit, manage and retain this technologically skilled pool of young workers.\n\nBut that\u2019s just part of the solution. In \u201cGeneration X: Stepping Up to the Leadership Plate," Gilburg argues that to effectively manage Gen Y, CIOs need to get Boomers and X-ers to acknowledge the biases they\u2019ve formed and how that can get in the way of managing an incoming generation that requires strong, focused leadership from them both. To that end, she offers suggestions for how CIOs can get their Boomer and X-er managers to collaborate with their increasingly Gen Y staff.\n\nOf course, it\u2019s important to remember that generalizations about the generations are just that. Age defines a demographic, not a person. We are, after all, talking about millions of individuals here, each with his or her own unique set of work and life experiences.\n\n\u201cYou have to pay attention to individual personalities,\u201d says Cummuta. \u201cKnowing the individual is far more important than thinking about what generation they belong to.\u201d\n\nDon\u2019t think of it as bridging a gap; think of it as aligning the generations. And alignment is something that CIOs have had a little practice with.\n\nSenior Editor Steff Gelston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.