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Managing different generations at work

coworkers23120152.jpgUnderstanding and managing different generations at work is growing increasingly more important especially as more and older individuals remain working past retirement age and younger and younger people are being selected to hold upper management level positions.Failure to realize the differences between the many generations that you may work with can lead to frustration and conflict because of misunderstanding.Hopefully it remains without saying that each generation has something worthwhile to offer.Managers should be especially sensitive to the work styles and the generational work styles of the individuals that they are responsible for.Here are the main generational groupings (as they are most popularly categorized) and a few of the typical characteristics of each one:

Traditional Generation members (born between 1922-1945) tend to:

  • Believe in conformity, authority, and rules

  • Dislike conflict

  • Seek out technological advancements

  • See things as right and wrong, black and white

Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) generally:
  • Build their career over the long term, putting in lots of hours, and showing loyalty to their employer

  • View themselves and their career as one

  • Enjoy finding solutions to problems and being in charge

  • Are drawn to and show respect to authority figures

Members of Generation X (born between 1965-1980) tend to:

  • Apply a high-quality over quantity attitude in the workplace

  • Multitask

  • Work to balance personal and professional life

  • Be technically competent

  • Enjoy the freedoms of flexible schedules and independence

Members of Generation Y (born between 1981-1994) generally:
  • Welcome change

  • Work well as a member of a team

  • Prefer to receive on-the-job training, flexibility in hours, and more casual work attire

  • Express themselves rather than define themselves through work (a trait that often clashes with the baby boomer generation)

  • Enjoy instant gratification

Managing different personalities requires flexibility, emphasis on respectful relationships, and focus on retaining talented employees. There are a number of different ways that confusion and conflict between different generations at work can be avoided.First, as a manager you want to do all that you can to accommodate the differences that exits among your employees.Make an effort to accommodate specific needs, different lifestyles, and even preferences.Create a workplace full of choices.Allow the employee some flexibility to make the workplace an environment that they can thrive in.Be less focused on the chain of demand and let the leash of leadership out a little bit. Give specific goals and ways to measure those goals to your employees and then let them find their own way of solving problems.Give feedback, rewards, and recognition as needed and in ways that are appropriate for each individual.Treat everyone, from the newest hire to the seasoned employee with the same level of respect.Competence and initiative have no age boundaries.Hire based on characteristics and traits needed in the workplace rather than first impressions and pre-conceived notions.Value employee retention by offering opportunities for ongoing training.Provide opportunities for learning and growth through classroom training and the assignment of broad tasks that challenge the individual.Utilize technological resources, including on-line course and curriculum opportunities.Facilitate group cohesion with exercises and activities designed to appeal to the interests of the members of the team.Foster the belief that any group can be enriched by diversity and that a variety of personalities can make for a stronger team.Managers can increase performance, creativity, and harmony within the team by nurturing the strengths of individual members.Managing different generations at work may present some challenges but the potential for reward through the collaborative effort of multiple generations is well worth the effort.

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