Managing a Melting Pot of Different Generations

October 30, 2020
Today’s workplace is a melting pot of different generations. How are you supposed to get everyone to work together? As a manager or business owner, you are in charge of leading different generations and getting great results. Managing a melting pot can be easier said than done. How can you get everyone to work together towards a common goal? “One-size-fits-all” is the wrong approach.

Know Who You Are Leading

The first step in leading different generations is understanding who the members of your team or company are. The current generations in the workforce include:
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
  • Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980)
  • Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000)
  • GenZ or Zoomers (born after 2000)
Each of these generations has a unique set of experiences that inform the way they approach the workplace. Baby Boomers saw firsthand how hard work and making sacrifices could lead to tremendous payoff down the road. Many of them don’t mind “putting in the hours”. They value achievement and financial security, dependability, self-discipline, security, traditions and following rules. Generation X employees – or Gen X for short – want to make a difference. They need to feel that their contribution to the team and the organization matters.  They want some latitude in how to achieve goals and therefore are not fond of micro-management. Gen Xers appreciate a more direct approach to communication and embrace feedback. Work-life balance is important to them. Millennials have grown up using technology and are more likely to value productivity and efficiency over long hours at the office. They also want to know what’s going on in the “big picture” and want a collaborative work place. Interpersonal communication with this group should be consistent, clear and empathetic. They prefer to work form home and are more likely to change employers than previous generations. Generation Z are motivated by social issues. They care about aligning with the mission and purpose of the organization they work for. Also high on their list is work-life balance. Gen Zers look at an organization’s culture and a sense of community as things that impacts their choice of employer. They want to know what is expected of them and need to be valued as a person. They are also very interested in personal development. While each generation has a different view of the ideal workplace, leading different generations means uniting them for a common cause. Of course, the above descriptions are only basic overviews of each generation. Each has more nuanced characteristic and then there is every person’s individual circumstance.

Focus on Strengths

When you know the characteristics of who you are leading, it will help you to hone in on the strengths of each worker and compliment and delegate accordingly. In today’s workplace, there are more likely to be disagreements over values than age. For example, Millennials are often stereotyped as being spoiled and lazy. They might see Baby Boomers as too traditional and stuck in old ways. When you are leading different generations, focus on what they can learn from one another and how their cooperation can benefit the entire organization. Find out what motivates your employees. While a Baby Boomer might be motivated by a monetary bonus or change of title to reward their hard work, a Gen Xer might be more interested in time off. Even small organizations can get creative with incentives.

Adapt to Each Generation

Finally, when you are leading different generations you should adapt your management and leadership style to them. Are your GenZ employees clocking out at 5:00 PM on the dot as long as their work is done? A Baby Boomer might scratch their head, because they value long hours as a sign of hard work. However, providing that they are getting everything done, you can’t manage according to what you think is important. Instead, you must manage based on whether or not the job is being accomplished. Focus on the concrete results at the end of the day. Keep an open mind and a focus on learning and development. Do your research. Grow your own knowledge base about leadership in general and get to know your team on a personal level. True leadership requires an open mind and an ongoing enthusiasm for bringing the best out in others. As Seth Godin said, “Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.”

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