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Manage people across generations: A trait of an efficient leader

Great leadership involves bringing all people together, irrespective of their age, cultural differences and seniority. The term “emotional intelligence” is heard commonly these days and is quoted as one of the desired skills needed for a good leader.

Manage people across generations: A trait of an efficient leader

Great leadership involves bringing all people together, irrespective of their age, cultural differences and seniority. The term “emotional intelligence” is heard commonly these days and is quoted as one of the desired skills needed for a good leader. The concept of leadership has changed drastically over the years with increasing awareness of the unhealthy and toxic patterns commonly seen at work places. In the current situation, there are a greater number of Generation X and millennials at work places, with many of them having a boss younger than them.

As leaders, it is important to understand the differences and behave with empathy. It is true to a certain extent that each generation has a unique style of working but it is also important to avoid stereotyping and assumptions based on age. Learning the working styles and understanding their expectations will be beneficial for leaders in handling a multi-generational work force.

The different generations that can be seen in a professional environment these days are:

Baby boomers

Currently around the age of 60 years, the baby boomers are the oldest that can be found in any organization probably in the top management roles. They are the people who have seen the growth of technology. Experience in the real world is definitely one of their strengths but they can demonstrate a conventional attitude in many areas. In a professional environment, they could come across mostly with a “know-it-all” attitude which can be difficult for younger managers to handle. They prefer being respected for their experience and like being considered in all the major decision-making processes.

Generation X

The “middle child” generation, currently around 40 – 55 years old that introduced the importance of work life balance after the hard-working baby boomers, is often considered as independent and resilient. By being totally averse towards micro management, they expect guidance from their seniors but do not like being told what to do. They had a big role in revolutionizing the work place culture.

Generation Y or Millennials

The current work force constitutes mostly of the millennials. This generation that is around 25 – 40 years old, is often considered as unprofessional, irresponsible and not serious about work by the earlier generations. In fact, they are the biggest risk takers with an entrepreneurial mindset. Like the Gen X generation, they also prefer minimal supervision but expect feedback from their seniors. The millennials do not support the concept of working long hours, rather they are smart workers. Leaders who are more open and flexible with this generation, find them easy to manage.

Generation Z

Born in the mid to late nineties, these are the youngest in the current work force who got familiar with technology in their initial years. According to an article published on Worklife by BBC, they are quite similar to the millennials as they value stability and like to be connected all the time. They prefer instant feedback for their work and have a short attention span. As per business.com, valuing career stability is a quality that differentiates them from the millennials. Since it is highly possible that their managers belong to another generation, a proper understanding of their goals and expectations is needed for managing them better.

Benefits of having a multi-generational work force

People of each generation have unique ways of going about doing things. When it comes to problem solving, a millennial would approach it differently as compared to a Gen Z or Gen X. Learning opportunities are increased when there is generational diversity. It is not true that you get to learn only from seniors, in fact learning happens when people have an open mind. For instance, a baby boomer who is open to learning, can observe how the internal communications happen within an organization through texts. This concept may be alien to them since they joined the work force at a time when the hierarchy was more distinct and formal. Similarly, a fresh employee can look up to their seniors for their impeccable knowledge and learn how they approach their work.

Conflict resolution at workplaces

It goes without saying that conflicts are bound to arise in a multi-generational work environment. Leaders need to be mindful of where each person is coming from, their experiences and what their expectations are. Expectations are something that set each generation apart and leaders need to understand this before leading them. Work ethics, values and communication styles can clash when people of different age groups work closely together. Lack of proper communication and understanding is a breeding ground for interpersonal issues and leaders need to take steps so that everybody can collaborate effectively.

Unresolved conflicts breed resentment and affect employee engagement. Leaders can adopt measures to bring the team together by getting all the members involved. Effective leadership involves setting the objectives clear so that each member can work towards it in their own way. As an empathetic leader, it is important to give the team the flexibility to work in their own way towards a common goal. Generational diversity can be a challenge for both employees and employers but if the advantages are utilized wisely, productivity and results will go to a different level altogether.