For years managers having difficulty bridging the divide between generations. This isn't anything new. However, human resources managers must confront the issues facing the modern workplace, where individuals from different age groups have expectations that are not always in harmony. The three generations seemingly at odds in offices across the country are Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, all of whom exemplify similar character traits, but to varying degrees -- and it's the divergence in how these groups approach managing that has led to differing perspectives.
Quite simply, they don't always see eye to eye. This sometimes calls for a change in the conversation by finding an alternative vocabulary set to describe generational perceptions -- and misconceptions -- by giving employees avenues for communication that allow for greater mutual understanding.
Eager to Move Up the Ladder One of the leading allegations levied at Generation Y is they are entitled and are primarily concerned with promotions. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young indicated 68 percent of more than 1,200 respondents across the U.S. supported this claim. Yet, 51 percent of management professionals felt the same sentiment toward members of Generation X. In reality, this reflects a motivated, career-focused workforce. However, this data could also pose a problem when it comes to team-based projects. If a task force is comprised of workers who are only interested in self-promotion, the project could be doomed.
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Teamwork is Not an Inherent Value To prevent this scenario, HR managers have an obligation to conduct training or implement team-building initiatives in the workplace that emphasize the extent to which cooperation helps accomplish large tasks. Culturally, American society has placed a premium on independence and self-reliance, so there's little surprise that younger generations have an attitude that reflects the desire to gain career prestige. On the other hand, collaboration is an essential part of the business world and continuing education initiatives can go a long way to develop a cooperative culture within a company.
The faster this occurs, the better, as the number of Millennials entering management level is increasing at a rapid pace. The Ernst & Young study reported 87 percent of current Generation Y managers transitioned into this role between 2008 and 2013. To gain some perspective, only 38 percent of Gen Xers became managers during the same period of time, but this group was identified favorably in all areas of management. Again, a younger, ambitious generation assuming leadership roles requires mentorship. The key for HR managers is not to be heavy-handed about implementing training exercises that partner more established managers with less experienced individuals.
All organizations looking to develop a highly qualified leadership pipeline depend on collaboration between generations. As Baby Boomers transition into retirement, there should be the expectation that they'll help provide younger managers with the communication skills that have enabled their business to grow and succeed. With 5 percent of boomers confident that Millennials are prepared to be leaders, the cross-generational conversation needs to take place sooner rather than later. Organizations should emphasize the fact that the prosperity of their business is at stake when perceptions are in conflict.