GenerationsSharing Space in the WorkplacePresented by:
What are Generation Gaps?Consider someone who is 20years old today. Does he or shehave different perceptions thansomeone currently in their60s? Most likely, yes.These differences in attitudes,values, beliefs and even waysof working together andcommunicating are referred toas “generation gaps.”
Would you be surprised if you went to greet a job candidate inyour lobby and saw that he brought his mother along? This ishappening at companies across the nation as recent college gradstry to land their first job.Or, how would you react if you were a newly hired manager, andwhen you asked an employee who’d been at the company for 30years to put the information you just discussed into an Excelspreadsheet and e-mail it to you, the employee looked at you likeyou were from another planet? This is also more common thanyou might imagine.For the first time in history, companies are faced with managingfour generations in the workplace. This can present issues!Generational Differences Can Lead toMisunderstandings and Conflict
Generations DefinedThe generations have been dubbed: Matures,Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials.Each of the four generations has its ownhistory that molds attitudes, values, beliefs,work habits and communication styles.Of course, generational descriptions andtime-frames should be somewhat looselyinterpreted to avoid stereotypes.However, some commonalities exist as aresult of the life experiences that haveshaped each group’s values and perceptionsof work.
MaturesMatures (born before 1946) generally haverespect for authority and conformity and grew upin a traditional family style. They are committedto duty, honor and country. This generation facedhard times before experiencing prosperity. Forthem, going to college was a dream and tocommunicate, they used rotary telephones andhandwritten letters sent by U.S. Mail. Maturescomprise about 5% of the workplace.At work, these employees have a strong workethic and a “sacrifice the me for the we” teamattitude. They do not seek individual recognitionbut prefer to blend into the team. For them, agood job is its own reward.Matures include Tom Brokaw, Jack Nicholson,Grammy Award winner Herbie Hancock andSenator John McCain.
Baby BoomersBaby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are optimistic, though they grew upwhen the traditional family style was dissolving. For them, going tocollege was a given. Communication was done through touch-tonetelephones and word processors were used to prepare letters sent viaU.S. Mail. Many Baby Boomers are defined by their work and theyexpected to pay their dues. They went to work for big companies andslowly but surely climbed the corporate ladder. As a result, thisgeneration currently comprises the vast majority of business leadersand bosses in the workplace.Some suggestions for managing Boomers include valuing the teamconcept and giving them face time. They don’t necessarily needindividual performance feedback, but do appreciate public recognitionby way of plaques, awards and certificates. Be mindful of the fact thatBoomers may have a difficult time reporting to younger employeeswho have not “put in their time” or who “are just interested in theresult.”Baby Boomers include Bill Gates,Chairman of Microsoft, IBM’s CEO,Sam Palmisano, Oprah Winfrey,George W. Bush, Hillary Clintonand Madonna.
Generation XGeneration X (born 1965-1979) employees feel more comfortablequestioning authority than their older cohorts, perhaps becausethey have witnessed the public disgrace of political and businessleaders who broke the rules. They have learned at an early agethat happy endings don’t always occur. Many of them grew upwith two working parents and they often view a college educationas a “way to get there.” This group communicates via PCs and cellphones. Generation X doesn’t live to work, they work tolive. Unlike older colleagues, they believe they own their time andlease to the company what it needs. Generation X employeesrarely retire with a company to get the gold watch, but oftenswitch jobs to build a repertoire of skills and experiences that areportable.When managing Generation X employees, give them lots ofprojects and communicate the desired outcome rather thanspending a lot of time on process. Generation X employeesrespond well when given the necessary resources and a chance toprove themselves. Delegate the outcome to them instead ofdetailing the individual tasks to get there.Generation Xers include Tiger Woods,Angelina Jolie, San Francisco MayorGavin Newsom and Google foundersSergey Brin and Larry Page.
MillenialsMillennials (born after 1979) are social and socialized; they grew upwith merged families and hanging out at the malls. They view collegeas extremely expensive and many only know of cell phones, instantmessaging and the Internet. This generation witnessed terroristattacks on America and high school shootings. They are not adults oradolescents, but are rather in an “adultolescent” phase. ForMillennials, the “future” is a short term. At work, they enjoycollaborative environments and may look to make friends with theirmanagers. They are extremely technologically savvy and creative,and they maintain close ties (some may say too close) with family,even as adults. They crave feedback and want to know how they fitinto an organization.When managing Millennials, bear in mind that many grew up in amenu-driven society that allows them to make choices without doingthe research. They may believe, “if it’s on the Internet it must be trueand if it’s not, I dont need it for my term paper.” This has resulted in alack of critical thinking skills that other groups take for granted.Therefore, delegating specific tasks may get better results. Be readyto clarify your company’s values and culture, and how they contributeto that big picture.Famous Millennials include Facebookfounder Mark Zuckerberg, JustinTimberlake, Britney Spears andLeBron James.
How to Bridge the Gap?Leading a department or team made up offour different generations may require atleast four different management styles. Forexample, a Boomer manager may befrustrated by a Millennial employee wholeaves work every day at the scheduleddeparture time because the Boomermanager expects long hours on the jobwhile the Millennial employee is seekingwork/life balance.Here are a few tips for managing today’smulti-generational workforce:
Managers Can No Longer Manage According toTheir Own Value SystemYou must instead manage according to each employee’s value system.When conflicts arise, personal biases must be set aside. Try to be objective, understandthe communication and work style of each person involved and manage according to thesituation and the people involved.Remember that an employee’s past experiences cannot be changed, whether thatemployee is a Mature, Millennial or somewhere in between. Managers should gain anunderstanding of and acknowledge the validity of each generation’s values.What can be changed, however, is the way a manager motivates his or her employees. AGeneration X employee may want time off as a performance reward, while a Boomer maywant a plaque or public acknowledgement. Ask your employees what motivates themand then reward them accordingly.Use the strengths of each generation for the benefit of the team. For example, haveMatures and Boomers teach and mentor Generation X and Millennials. Their institutionalwisdom is a precious commodity and their life experiences will add colorful practicalexamples. Encourage Generation X and Millennials to help their more mature coworkerswith technology.
Draw on all the Strengths of the TeamEffectively motivating a cross-generationalteam will allow a manager to draw on allthe strengths of his or her team.All team members need to work togethercollaboratively and remain focused on thesame objectives. Also, it’s important torealize that others’ beliefs aren’t better orworse, just different.After all, people with differentperspectives always have the potential tobring different thoughts and ideas to ateam, and the resulting product can be farsuperior to the product of a morehomogenized group.