Managing and communicating across the generationsBY CHRIS FENNEY
There are currently four different generations employed in our organizations. Each generation has distinct values and characteristics that often lead to difficulties in managing and communicating with each other.
It is important for each generation to be aware and sensitive to these differences in order to minimize misunderstandings.
These generations have been labeled the Matures, the Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.
The Matures are those born before 1945 and also known as Veterans, Seniors, Traditionalists and even “the Silent Generation”.
Boomers are those born between 1945 – 1964 and often referred to as the Baby Boomers.
Generation X are those born between 1964 – 1980 and also known as X’ers, and Post Boomers.
Generation Y’s, born after 1980, have themselves been labeled as the Millennials, Nexters, and of course the Internet Generation.
Brief generational descriptors
For the matures their defining idea is duty, their work style is team player, their view of education is a dream, they manage money by saving.
The boomers defining idea is individuality, their work style is self-absorbed, their view of education is a birthright, they manage money by spending Gen X’ers defining idea is diversity, their work style is entrepreneur, their view of education is a way to get ahead, they manage money by investing.
Gen Y’s defining idea is back to basics, their work style is team player, their view of education is life long, they manage money by spending their parents dollars.
Matures value dedication, law and order, strong work ethic, risk adverse, respect for authority, loyalty to the organization. Boomers value optimism, team work, personal gratification, promotion and recognition, health and wellness.
Gen X values diversity, balance in life, computer literacy, personal development, informality, initiative. Gen Y values optimism, confidence, ambition and achievement education, idealism fun and diversity.
Generational attitudes to feedback
Traditionalists – “No news is good news.”
Boomers – “Feedback once a year.”
Generation X – “Sorry to interrupt but how am I doing”.
Generation Y – “Feedback at the push of a button.”
Leading and motivating the different generations
Training and development across the generations
Messages that motivate the different generations
Matures: Your experience is respected, it’s important for the rest of us to hear what has, and hasn’t worked in the past, your perseverance is valued and will be rewarded. Boomers: You are important to our success, we recognise your unique contribution, what is your vision for this project, you are valued. Generation X: Do it your way, we have the latest technology, we are not very corporate here.
Generational understanding does not take the place of concern for the individual. Different generations care about different approaches to the same problem. Different is neither right or wrong, just different. Remember, generational context is not about age, but common experiences.
Chris Fenney, Co-founder and Director, Training Edge International