Leadership Skills for Managing Generation Gaps in the Workforce
Whether you like it or not, generation gaps exist in the work place– there’s Gen X, Gen Y, and what they call Baby Boomers who are all generations apart in age and interests. Tension and office squabble between generations are inevitable. However, conflicts and disagreements that go on for long periods of time can really have some serious effect on employees and the total business productivity. These tend to lower employee morale, decrease productivity, and result to constant staff turnover, all of which are costly to the organization. It is no easy task to manage people that come from different age groups, with different backgrounds, and experiences. The challenge now for business owners or managers is to have leadership skills good enough to bring these generations together.
Here’s a closer look at some of the differences between Generation X and Generation Y, and how to best manage each segment of the workforce. Understanding the differences between these two generations will give you a better grasp at how hard it may be to mix these two in a single organization. Leadership skills are key to manage them together successfully.
- Generation X refers to people born between the years 1965 and 1980; they are widely in their 30’s and early 40’s. Compared to an earlier generation called ‘Baby Boomers’, Gen X-ers are better educated—with more than 60% of them with a college degree.
Gen X form mostly senior associates, mid-level staff positions, junior law partners, and middle-management positions. They are independent and self-sufficient; they put a premium on freedom and responsibility in the workplace. They also oppose micro-management and structured work hours. They are the first to grow up with computers, and have adjusted with technology over the years.
- Gen X-ers exhibit a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude in the workplace, so allow them to grow their passions, creativity and to develop new skills. Provide them clear goals to work hard for.
- Because they are self-sufficient, empower them to make choices and decisions. Always give them options to choose from so they can practice more freedom in the workplace.
- Though mentoring is good, be careful not to micro-manage them or you may end up sapping their creativity. Don’t give rigid guidelines, but ensure them you are there to offer guidance. Use your leadership skills to communicate with them.
- Generation Y, also known as ‘millennials’, are those born in the mid-80’s and so on. Professionals in this generation are only in their 20’s. Gen Y is the biggest and fastest growing segment of the workforce.
The best and most applicable description to this generation is their love for technology. Gen Y-ers rely heavily on their laptops, iPhones, BlackBerrys, and gadgets to perform their jobs more efficiently. They communicate best through text messaging, email, and social media. And learn better through ‘webinars’ and online presentations. They tend to need micro-management and closer guidance.
- This generation actually thrives on multitasking. They like the challenge of it, but be careful not to overwhelm them.
- They perform better in collaboration with teams or by partners.
- Provide clear guidelines and even suggest processes to achieve goals. They often appreciate specific guidelines.
- Obviously, they love technology! Allow them to utilize this in their work.
- Positive reinforcement is crucial. Be generous with positive praises and feedback to motivate them better.
It may be a juggling act to relate and manage varying work habits from different generations, but developing good leadership skills by heart will allow business leaders to manage them more effectively.
© 2012 Incedo Group, LLC