The current American workforce is comprised of four different generations: Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. While the thought of managing four generations of workers may be terrifying to some, it is not an impossible feat. There is a delicate balance to maintain between each group, and if handled properly, everyone can work together in harmony.
One of the more recurring conflict scenarios occurs between Generation X and Generation Y. In addition to their young and competitive nature, they need to be managed differently, which can be exhausting at times. Generation X might become suspicious if you are involved in their work all of the time, while Generation Y may appreciate the input and attention. The key to managing a multigenerational workforce is understanding what each age group expects and respects.
If you are currently finding yourself at odds on how to establish a working relationship between these two generations—fear not. Here are five ways to keep the peace between Gen X and Gen Y employees:
When speaking to Generation X, be sure to communicate informally and effectively. Gen X is known to be loyal and independent, but generally don’t like to be micromanaged with people peering over their shoulder every hour. Generation Y, however, prefers systematic feedback and as much positive reinforcement as possible. Always be certain to keep these considerations in mind.
Although both of these generations grew up with technology as a tool, you can still create programs for both generations to work together and share their knowledge. Both of these groups value guidance and training more than sharing, but they can both learn something from each other. It is up to the manager to find a useful and collaborative program or event to strengthen relationships.
The best way to forge partnerships is to build teams of all ages, genders and cultures. By working together and relying on one another for their expertise, your employees will learn to value and trust their teammates regardless of their generation. In the end, it is all about performance. Succeeding together is a bond stronger than anything.
Most companies offer little when it comes to actually training their employees on diversity and other similar matters. And not surprisingly, these companies deal with the most intergenerational problems. Training sessions give employees a chance to open their eyes and the manager a chance to stomp out fires before they start. Everyone will benefit from these sessions.
In order to maximize the potential of your employees, you cannot focus on one management style. Exercise a flexible structure to accommodate everyone. The last thing you want to do is alienate a group of people. If performed thoughtfully, you truly can make everyone happy.
As of 2013, Gen X and Gen Y make up over 45% of the workforce, and the number will be closer to 50% by 2020. While predicting the future is impossible, we do know these two generations will be working side-by-side for decades to come, and the sooner they learn to appreciate each other’s differences the better off they will be. As a manager, you owe it to these employees to recognize that differences do exist, but they do not have to be negative. In fact there are benefits of Gen Y and Gen X working together.
Start by creating a dialogue and keep the lines of communication open. Gen X and Gen Y are more similar than they think—or would like to admit. Help them understand.
About the Author
Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy, a leading provider of early intervention careers and occupational therapist jobs in Chicago.