Effectively managing in our emerging workplace can mean the difference between creating a high performance, energizing environment and an ineffective, highly frustrating environment. Often, getting to high performance begins with an understanding of our own ‘styles’ and appreciating the different approaches of others. This is particularly challenging when we may, for one of the first times in history, find 4 generations, maybe even 5 in the same workplace.
According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the following top trends are impacting most of us at work (SIOP, 2019):
- Work/life balance interventions
- Creating agile organizations
- Data visualization and communication
- Changing nature of work
- Automation of jobs and tasks
- Sexual harassment; #MeToo at work
- ‘Gig economy’ = contract work
- Working with Big Data
- Diversity, inclusion and equity
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
It becomes apparent that generational differences can be impacted by many of these trends, especially when we think about diversity and inclusions, the changing nature of our work, and automation/technology. To be effective, we will likely need to work collaboratively with people that view the world a bit differently from each other.
As we think about working with the different generations that make up our peers and supervisors, we need to find methods to ensure everyone feels valued at work. Looking past the simple stereotypes we create of each generation, there is one commonality we can draw across all generations: the desire to feel valued and add valued at work (Davey, 2018). This requires us to take a deeper look at how we work together.
To start our exploration, let’s look at some of the common generational differences. As you review the table, below, you may identify yourself and the members of your team. This is a good thing!
Characteristics of the Generations
|Profile||Silent||Boomer||Generation X||Millennial||Generation Z|
|Size||26 million||73 million||66 million||72 million||86 million|
|Status @ work||Aging out||Declining||Declining||Stable||Growing|
|View of Authority||Respectful||Love/Hate||Unimpressed||Relaxed/Polite||Respectful?|
|Relationships||Personal Sacrifice||Personal Gratification||Reluctant to commit||Loyal||Connection?|
|Focus||Task||Relationships and results||Task and relationships||Integrated||Task and relationship|
|Messages||Make do or without Sacrifice Consider the common good||Be anything you want to be Work well with others Live up to expectations||Don’t count on it. Get real Ask, ‘why?’||Be smart – you are special Connect 24/7 Achieve now! Serve your community||?|
|Persuasive Language||Authority, discipline, leader, rank, sacrifice, consistent, stable||Consensus, involvement, tolerance, trust, interpersonal, humane, team||Alternative, reality, results, system, competent, pragmatic, sensible||Achievement, collaborative, discovery, fun, positive, overcome, cutting edge||?|
|Work culture||Stable, secure||Advancement, team||Flexible, efficient||Positive, collaborative||?|
|Looking for…||Consistency, respect for experience||Leadership opportunities, good cause||Development opportunities, efficiency||Future oriented, challenge, flexibility||?|
As we have often mentioned in our articles and workshops, gaining knowledge about a subject is a great start yet can fall short for leaders. As leaders, what we do with this new knowledge is critical! So, let’s explore an exercise to ‘walk in the shoes’ of another and appreciate the differences based on generations.
Consider completing, or at least thinking about, what value would members of each generation bring to…
Note: we used Boomer, Gen X and Millennial as an illustration.
|Boomers||Gen X||Millennial (Gen Y)|
|Solving complex tasks|
|Creating a sense of value and worth|
As we conclude, Knight (2014), suggests several methods for effectively managing in a multigenerational workplace which include:
- Don’t dwell on differences
- Build collaborative relationships
- Study your employees
- Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring
- Consider life paths
We also want to remember that everyone wants to feel valued at work, regardless of age, demographic or generation. Highly successful multi-generational teams identify, value and build on the skills and experiences of one another. When we focus on appreciating individual strengths, rather than highlighting the focus on generational differences, we increase our ability to thrive in the modern workplace.
Davey, L. (2018). The key to preventing generational tension is remembering that everyone wants to feel valued. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/07/the-key-to-preventing-generational-tension-is-remembering-that-everyone-wants-to-feel-valued?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social
Knight, R. (2012). Managing people from 5 generations. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/09/managing-people-from-5-generations
SIOP Top Workplace Trends 2019. Retrieved from https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/Items-of-Interest/ArtMID/19366/ArticleID/1639/It%E2%80%99s-the-Same-Only-Different
Post is written by Drs. Sheila Boysen, Lesley Page and Michael Cherry