Whether you are handling a baby boomer who is frustrated with the work ethic of a Gen Xer or you are mentoring an impatient Gen Y employee who has lost his cool with the technical skills of older team members, at some point the white flag has to go up and work must proceed.
The more you learn about successfully mixing generations, the more smoothly your workplace can get on with its work. After all, your organization has hired the people it feels can bring the right talents to the table and get the best work done, every day. Here are ways to refocus on the mission and move ahead:
Start by re-energizing. Ask yourself and your team why you are here. Take a moment to refocus the group on the overall mission and the project mission. What can this group accomplish that no one else can? Even this 10-minute detour in a weekly meeting will help everyone involved to remember their common ground, and reestablish the group identity.
Next, ask people to tell you how they are contributing to the group’s mission, today or this week. Simply put, take any theoretical or abstract talk off the table, so you can make the work (for today or this week) relate very directly to the greater goal.
Finally, integrate more collaboration to leverage the strengths of each member.This is especially useful in a cross-generational setting, because each age group can offer their own unique background, skills or experience set.
Confirm that everyone on the team should embrace learning from others and also have a willingness to teach. This atmosphere helps dissolve some of the generational tensions and reframes the situation so that everyone is a learner and a teacher.
Manage Across the Generations
These takeaways will help each one of your team members improve their performance, regardless of the generation mix in your workplace.
Give boomers credit for their historical memory and bank of experiences. Coach them in their goals and challenge them to grow in their skills and career by providing guidelines for improvement.
Help Gen Xers continue to gain skills that will make them marketable to any employer. Offer development opportunities that appeal to their focus on training and gaining transferable skills.
Establish yourself as a “teacher” versus a traditional “manager” for your Gen Y employees. Give ongoing feedback that is toggled with ways to immediately improve. Stress their positive traits. Take the time to inquire about their goals and tie them back into daily job tasks.
Click the Action Steps below to test your Gen X knowledge.
5 Questions for Bruce Tulgan
We were fortunate to interview Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay to Be the Bossand the classic Managing Generation X, and Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y. I hope you find this excerpt of value.
Can you give us an overview of how the generations differ from each other?
Members of generation X are naturally entrepreneurial; they were raised in an environment that lacked supervision. Therefore, they prefer to work in an unsupervised setting. Members of generation Y tend to need more supervision; they grew up with doting parents, and have always been supervised. Since they have been oversupervised, they typically want to be more independent, but that isn’t necessarily the environment that they thrive in.
How do these differences play out in the workplace?
There are certainly some tricky generational situations as Generation X and Generation Y become leaders and companies are doing things with more of a Boomer mentality.
We are always tracking the big picture, tracking the landscape of human capital management and day to day supervision.
How do you address workplace issues in mixed generation groups?
The funny thing about issues in the workplace is that it is best to put a spotlight on the authentic common ground they share, without which they would not be there. So finding something they all care about and coming up with a solution or short cut is the first step.
I also focus on doing more work better and faster. I often find unnecessary interdependence, which gets people tangled up. We have to rely on, wait, and coordinate; all of these take time. Eliminating these unnecessary interdependencies moves the group closer to the efficiency they are seeking.
What do you think the current rash of layoffs will mean as we move forward? Will companies experience a talent vacuum as the economic tides turn?
Employers certainly have been trying to get more lean and flexible. A primary point has been when it comes to human capital management. There are smaller fixed core groups (on site uninterrupted, exclusive, relatively long term fixed salary employees) and increasingly larger groups of contingent workers (temps, consultants or independent contractors).
As the workforce becomes more fluid, and long term fixed employment becomes less the norm, the downsizing has been happening so quickly.
It will certainly be interesting to watch things unfold as we move forward in the new economy. Thanks for your time, Bruce.
Managing the Generation Mix, co-authored by Bruce Tulgan is highlighted below.
Managing the Generation Mix
The workplace is changing. Powerful demographic forces are underway causing a “generational shift.” If you’re managing a mix of employees of all ages from teens to retirees and finding it takes more time and skill than ever before, welcome to the revolution.
The latest edition of Managing the Generation Mix is full of insight and advice for tackling the age-related challenges you face every day and maximizing the strengths of your age-diverse team members.
- Who’s in your generation mix today and what you can expect of them
- How to adjust your communication style to fit people who prefer instant messaging and e-mail to face-to-face exchanges
- How to mine the riches in older, seasoned employees
- Managing people old enough to be your parents or grandparents
- Teaching teens how to serve your customers