Managing the Generations

For the month of May, HR Magazine published a great cover story regarding today’s diverse workforce. Generation gaps create stresses amongst co-workers and hinders the communication between employees and their managers. There are at least four generations at work today and misunderstandings can drag the day on with frustration, but it does not have to.

“People’s attitudes are influenced by the familial and cultural experiences of their childhood.”  Given different experiences that shape each generation’s value system, it is no wonder when members of multiple generations arrive at work each day, tensions arise. A survey showed 72% of respondents believe these generational conflicts cause at least some issues in the workplace. In addition to actual differences in understanding, each generation has stereotypical perceptions of others–both younger and older–which affect interpersonal relationships and communication.

Growing up with supportive parents, Generation Y (or Millennials) are shocked by Gen X management styles which tend to take a  hands-off approach. A lack of guidance or coaching can be perceived as a lack of caring for an employee’s career success. Gen Y enters a company at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, but immediately wants to know what skills and experience will get them a promotion or put them on a path toward their dream job. Similarly, they want to hear feedback from supervisors, and they want it frequently. Brief explanations and little clarification will leave a Gen Y employee full of questions. Although they want to take action by interpreting instructions, that feels risky if standards and expectations are not clearly set out. The principle at consulting firm Interchange Group in Los Angeles, Amy Hirsh Robinson, explains, “All we’ve told [Millennials] is that we believe they will be the change agent for shaping a new way of working, yet when they get into the workplace, we say, ‘First, you need to do things our way.’ So you can understand their frustrations.”

This well written article discusses many common viewpoints of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Stereotypes one group has of the other, and how that affects working relationships. Understanding why others prefer standard rules, enjoy flexible schedules, or manage differently than you would, is the first key step in bridging the generation gaps.

Read the full article online at

More on this topic at the Socialcast Blog

Books about: Bridging the Generation Gap, Work Ethics, and Finding Common Ground.  

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