Bridging the Generation Gap: Relating to Employees From Different Generations
Today’s workplace is much more likely to have employees of widely varying ages than ever before. As a manager, it’s your job to relate to each and every one of these workers, no matter whether it’s the 65-year-old who has been with the company his entire life or a 22-year-old new college graduate. Of course this can present a unique set of problems. How can you relate to such fundamentally different people?
The first thing you need to do to effectively manage across the generation gap is to find a common ground with each and every one of your employees. Whether it is books, movies, or sports, there is almost surely some common interest you share with each of your employees, no matter whether they are older or younger than you. When you discover what you have in common outside of work, you can take steps to build a personal relationship, which will in turn make management easier.
In addition to building a personal relationship, you also need to understand differences in generations. The very oldest people in a workplace may have difficulty with technology, but they tend to be hard workers who are very dedicated. By contrast, the youngest people in the workplace are extremely comfortable with the latest technologies, but may put a higher value on their personal life and freedom than did past generations. And of course there is a wide range in between these two. As a manager, you need to understand the unique circumstances of each person, regardless of generation, and treat them accordingly.
Of course going hand in hand with this last part is the importance of avoiding stereotypes. While it may be true that many Baby Boomers are seeking advancement and are comfortable with technology, it doesn’t mean all of them are. It’s up to you as a leader to assess each person’s unique personality and adjust your management style for maximum results.
Something else to consider when managing across generation lines is the way you communicate. While the younger generations may be just fine with instructions via text message, older employees may find this lacking in personal touch and rude. To manage each effectively, you may need to utilize different communication tools.
Overall, the main thing to remember when managing employees of different generations is that each person is an individual and has different likes and dislikes, wants and needs. It’s up to you as a manager to address each of them uniquely and find a way to relate on a personal level.