Lab Life Hack: Build a Strong Lab Team by Ensuring That All Generations Work Together

Oct 25, 2018

In today’s medical laboratory, several generations coexist. It’s imperative that you keep the lines of communication open to ensure an efficient and smoothly operating team. Hear from two ASCP pathologists and a laboratory professional about how they help their teams thrive in a multigenerational work environment.


The key to working with different generations is to appreciate the areas of medicine that others have gone through. Of course, everyone should keep up with their CMEs, but it’s also important to be sensitive and respectful of the older generation. They have walked the walk and may have insight you don’t realize. It’s important to show them the respect they need and, hopefully, they will show that to you also because you were trained more recently.

Kyle M. Annen, DO, FASCP

I became medical director of a laboratory when I was 30 years old. Due to many reasons, the lab staff hadn’t really gotten to know me or trust me. The fact that I had been alive for a shorter time than some of the staff has worked in their department didn’t help. I was lucky I had inherited a very well run lab due to the staff’s collective of years of experience, dedication to their job and leadership. My main concern was getting them to trust me and my leadership and continuing the legacy of excellence.

Several months after starting my new role, I went to a laboratory utilization lecture and a new project was born. For any laboratory utilization project to succeed, the entire lab team needs to come together. We got to know each other, and it allowed me to prove that I am not just an AP pathologist but a CP pathologist who is part of the team. I asked questions and got some really great answers. I was also able to empower those of the older generation to not give in to physician pressure and to perform testing that is not indicated or that they want run on a poor sample.

I have now been in this position for seven years. The laboratory professionals with 30+ (even 40+) years of experience who were there at the beginning of my career are starting to retire, allowing new leaders to step forward. There is no way to make up for the knowledge lost when someone retires, but it does allow for modernization of processes and implementation of new ideas. The transition of leadership can be smooth as long as communication lines are kept open and there is a deference to expertise. A new leader needs support from the entire team to succeed. If they succeed, the entire lab succeeds.      

Dana Altenburger, MD, FASCP

Laboratory Professional

The medical lab science field is one that is constantly changing and evolving. As a result, our experiences as laboratory professionals vary from generation to generation. While we leave old techniques behind (mouth pipetting, anyone?!) and incorporate new ones into our everyday work, our differences in experience and resulting perspectives of the lab is often very helpful to one another.

A multigenerational work environment reminds us that it is important to embrace change, but it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel each time we implement something new. It allows us to foster a resourceful work environment where existing knowledge and processes are shared from experienced laboratory professionals, while new ideas and technologies are brought in by younger generations. This combination allows us to learn from past mistakes and cohesively work to eliminate inefficiencies in the lab while improving patient care.

Kelsey Johnson, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM