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Avoid the Pitfalls of Managing Multigenerational Employees

It causes chaos in the workplace when generations collide. Baby boomers, Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z have different characteristics, work habits, and ideas. Managing a multigenerational team can be challenging. However, learning to appreciate what each group brings and leveraging their unique skills can strengthen the entire organization. Being an effective leader requires motivating your team to perform at peak levels. Understanding what factors shape each generation’s point of view can help you create a team that embraces cooperation and innovative thinking.

Challenges of leading multigenerational Employees
Sometimes a team has such different opinions and workstyle the person in charge may feel like they’re herding cats—everyone going in different directions. The boomer employee may always be punctual and is a stickler about time. In comparison, their Gen Y coworker may prefer to take time to drop by the café to pick up a latte or head out early to take their dog for a walk. It can be challenging to balance these generational preferences. Starting with these goals will help you achieve your objectives.

  • Accommodate different work styles while being fair and equitable
  • Create a workplace that recognizes and supports different values
  • Learn to communicate effectively with different generations
  • Be flexible and open to new thoughts and ideas
  • Get to know your employees to understand their communications preferences
  • Avoid stereotyping employees and making assumptions
  • Bring Employees together so they can learn from each other

Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964)
At one point, “boomers” were the largest generation in the workplace; over time, millennials have moved into the top spot. These individuals consider themselves to be logical thinkers with strong leadership skills. People in this generation are among the 3.4 million babies born after World War II. Many witnessed historic events like the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Woodstock, and the aftermath of Watergate. In this era, the workplace became more ethnically diverse and inclusive, with an increased acceptance of women in leadership positions. Characteristics leaders should consider when interacting with Baby boomer employees:

  • Goal-driven
  • Building Relationships
  • Competitive
  • Personal gratification
  • Equality

Boomers want to “make things clear” to avoid misunderstandings. Their preferred communication method is to talk in person or by phone. To keep these employees engaged and motivated, strive to build relationships and offer feedback in person. Being equitable and fair when resolving problems will gain you respect and credibility.

Generation X (1965-1980)
The “Middle Child” generation is wedged between Boomers and Millennials. This generation grew up in an era dominated by conflicts in the middle east and the emergence of computers and the internet. These employees value efficiency and feel empowered to get the job done. Avoid micro-managing them by looking over their shoulder. This behavior builds confidence in their abilities and creates an environment of trust. Gen X consider themselves problem-solvers; let them use these skills to the company’s advantage.

Communications style: Gen X prefers to communicate in person or by phone to get an idea of the other person’s goals and objectives in the conversation.
Characteristics leaders should consider when interacting with Gen X employees:

  • Prefer instant feedback
  • Adapt to new technology
  • Personal development
  • Independent and self-sufficient
  • Hard work brings rewards

Generation Y or Millennials (1981-2000)
Millennials have been called entitled, complainers, and unreliable, depending on which generation you ask. They are now 35 percent of the workforce, making them the largest generation of employees. They are avid internet and social media consumers and came of age when mass shootings and terrorism began to dominate the news. To retain these employees’ companies should offer flex time and the ability to work remotely.
Communication style: Millennials prefer email, texting, and instant messaging.
Characteristics leaders should consider when interacting with Millennial employees:

  • Achievement-oriented
  • Competitive
  • Curious and open-minded
  • Self-confidence
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Job hopping for career advancement

Generation Z (2001-2020)
Gen Z is the first generation that does not know what life was like before the internet. They are true techies and are more diverse than previous generations. Gen Z prefers jobs that enable them to multi-task and have the freedom to work independently with limited supervision. Social life and home life are meaningful, so work-life balance is essential.
Communication style: Smartphones, texting, instant messaging, and social media.
Characteristics leaders should consider when interacting with Millennial employees:

  • Tech-savvy and creative
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Risk-takers and progressive
  • Educated and Diverse
  • Community-focus

When it comes to managing people, there are no quick answers. Employees’ expectations change over time, so it’s critical to remain flexible and listen to different opinions before making decisions that will impact the team. You will sometimes get it right, but you can always return to the drawing board and try something new.

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