Leading Different Generations in Your Office
A misunderstanding of cultures and generations at work can lead to decreased productivity and an unhappy work environment for everyone involved. Taking the time to understand where other employees are coming from can make a positive difference in a multicultural and age-diverse team.
The Silent Generation
1. Be respectful:
Understand that they have a wealth of life experiences and an understanding of the world that comes from living through the changes our nation has endured since 1950.
2. Be patient:
Recognize that while technology isn’t always their friend, they are willing and able to learn how to use it to their advantage.
3. Be aware of their struggles:
Many Silent Generation workers did not expect to still be working. This was not always how they planned this part of life to be lived. Economic hardship has forced many to stay at work longer than anticipated, so find ways to use the history they bring.
4. Be clear in communication:
The Silent Generation still values face-to-face communication above all other forms. Take the time to speak to them in their comfort zone, face-to-face.
The Baby Boomers
1. Be grateful:
Most Baby Boomers give more to the job than other generations. They often “live to work,” and as a leader, if you communicate how you value that, the Boomer will bring you more loyalty.
2. Be willing to give them control:
When appropriate, give them a project and let them fly with it, with very little oversight. Boomers love to be acknowledged as experts in what they do … and they have earned the opportunity to show what they know.
3. Be a technological coach:
Gently guide them into the newest ways of working smarter. Help them receive the training they need to incorporate skills with technology they may lack. Do this without condescension, only with their best interests at heart.
4. Earn their respect:
This group of workers will learn to respect younger leaders as you practice the three skills mentioned above. They might be slow in expressing respect, but earning it will give you a loyal employee in your corner.
1. Be valuing:
Set up a relationship in which the Joneses on your team see that you value what they bring to the table. They are not afraid to work long hours, learn the latest in technology, try new things and take leadership from the expert. Don’t see them as resistant; they are the collaborators.
2. Be flexible:
Joneses like to try the out-of-the-box ideas. Give them room, with boundaries, to experiment with how tasks can be completed.
3. Be the teacher:
Introduce them to new technology, theories and techniques they are not aware of yet. Give them solid reasons for how it will make life easier, and give them time to embrace new ideas.
4. Be involved:
Joneses workers will respect leaders who lead from “the trenches.” They value work experience, so prove to them you know how to do it and are willing to pitch in and do it when needed.
1. Be relational:
Provide times to get to know what Gen X workers are like outside of work. They are not as dedicated to work as they are to what work allows them to do in their lives. Many times they are also looking for community that they did not find in childhood. Take time to form relationships.
2. Be open:
Gen X workers are free spirits and like to have the freedom to do it in a new and unconventional way. Don’t shut down new ideas until you hear them out … new isn’t bad, just new.
3. Be straightforward:
Feedback, feedback, feedback! More than any generation, Gen X needs to hear how they are doing. Even if you believe what they have done is expected, celebrate that they did what was expected. An appreciated Gen Xer is a happy Gen Xer.
4. Be a mentor:
Constantly give Gen Xers opportunities for growth, promotion and expansion of responsibility. They demand a vision of where this can lead them, not just how it will help them in their current role.
1. Be informational:
Provide Gen Y with several sources, styles and media to obtain the information they need. They grew up with the Internet within their reach and will expect information to be readily available.
2. Be flexible:
Life is not about work for Gen Y; they need flexibility when possible. The answer “Because we always did it this way” will not fly for this worker.
3. Be a doer:
Gen Y likes results. Get in there and show how to get results. Lead by example and then ask for their feedback.
4. Be a mentor and a mentee:
Recognize they have skills you can help them develop, but they come to the workplace with many skills you might not have. Be willing to teach and learn from this bright generation. Also remember many of them are faster than most workers and get bored quickly.