Published - March 2012

By Dave Jakielo

Managing Multiple Generations

For the first time in history there are four generations working together in the workplace and this leads to new challenges for today's managers. If you have been in management over 10 years the leadership style that helped you get to where you are today may no longer be effective.

Each generation has their own set of unique characteristics and today's leaders must understand the differences if they want to tap into the potential of each generation. The old, "it's my way or the highway," mentality of managing just doesn't cut it anymore.

Today, leadership challenges are occurring because each generation has different: values, ambitions, views and mind sets. It's not that one generation is right and the others are wrong, it's just that each is different.

The four generations definitions and characteristics are as follows:

The Silent Generation born between 1925 – 1945

  • Grew up during the Depression
  • Happy to have a job because their parents didn’t
  • Saved money and paid cash
  • Strong family values and a sense of accountability

The Baby Boomers 1946 – 1964

  • Grew up in the 60's counterculture
  • Invented the word – Workaholic
  • Spent money without worrying about paying
  • Dictatorial style of Leadership

Generation X 1965 – 1981

  • Grew up with double income or single parent
  • Most highly educated
  • Latch Key Kids
  • Skeptical – Seen parents bust their butts and get downsized

Millennials or Gen Y'ers 1982 – 2000

  • Grew up with Helicopter Parents
  • Won't wait 10 years for a promotion
  • Surrounded with technology, mobile phones, video games
  • Want paid for results not hours worked

As you can see from above, each generation is unique and they all have had distinctly different experiences that molded them into what they are today. So for today's leaders it is important to utilize strategies that will create an environment where each generation will want to remain motivated and on task.

Because of the varying characteristics of each generation it is no longer effective to have the mentality that you as a leader should, "Treat everyone the same." However, by employing different strategies for each, you indeed can remain successful.

Let's look at some strategies for each group.

First, the Silent Generation. Remember that they respect the rules so it is imperative that you have clear-cut rules that they can follow and specific goals they can achieve. Most employees in this generation avoid technology. The best way to communicate is via written memo or face-to-face.

The Boomers want to know their specific goals and then want you to get out of the way while they achieve them. Boomers can be excellent mentors but also may need mentored in the newer technologies. You can realize communication success with this group either meeting face-to-face or through e-mail.

The Gen X'ers want to be able to work with leading technology, and remember that you can't use the argument if you work hard you'll get ahead because of what they seen happen to their parents and other relatives who have been downsized. Their preferred method of communication is e-mail or text.

Lastly, the Millennials value life balance, "they work to live, not live to work." Don't be surprised if a concert is more important than working overtime. They want to learn how to do everything, coaching and mentoring is usually more important to them than promotions. Additionally, a leader will need to praise them about their performance about once every 15 minutes. Remember, this is the generation that received "Participation Trophies," just because they showed up. If you want to communicate with them you'll need to text or tweet them because most don't even have e-mail addresses.

In summary, what I hope to have communicated to you is that it is the leader's responsibility to modify their leadership style based on what generation the team member is from, if they want to be effective. I know this article isn't all inclusive of what is needed to be a successful leader in today's multi-generational workplace so to learn more about this subject I recommend reading Generations at Work by Zemke, Raines and Filipczak.

Dave Jakielo, CHBME, is an International Speaker, Consultant, Executive Coach, and Author, and is President of Seminars & Consulting. Dave has been helping companies improve their profitability for over four decades. Sign up for his FREE weekly Success Tips at Dave can be reached via email; phone 412-921-0976.

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