Dr. Elizabeth Kelan, a leading researcher on Generation Y describes us as “revolutionary” and believers in “endless opportunity”. We are “different” than the generations before us. We are tech-savvy, optimistic, extremely ambitious and achievement oriented while placing a great emphasis on work life balance and family. What Kelan has also presented is the common belief that we will “grow out of” our ways. I can’t say for certain if we will “grow out of our ways” but I don’t want to believe we will grow out of our optimism, ambition, or revolutionary ways. Having said this, when our older employees allow us to direct them and pay mind to our guidance as managers, are they doing it because they believe we will grow out of being “different”?
Will we as generation Y ever start doing things differently? In a workplace environment is “different” a bad thing? Well, if parts of the generations that came before us believe we will grow out of it, then it’s assumed that they are hoping we will.
It’s no wonder why one of the biggest mistakes people managing employees who are older than them make is not giving constructive criticism. It is due to a lack of respect generated toward our generation. After all, we are called generation “me”, entitled, and the “trophy” generation because we get rewarded for doing nothing truly worth mentioning and our performances are equalized with others who perform worse than us.
Okay, now that I’ve explained our generation and my view of other generation’s views, I will say they are absolutely right. We get awarded for doing absolutely nothing and expect everything to be handed to us; including promotions for working at a company for 6 months as opposed to 10 years. Mind you, this is a stereotype that has a great deal of truth but is a generalization. We also are innovative, creative, and revolutionary thinkers who climb ranks quickly because we are ambitious and think outside the box. Therefore, don’t be afraid to be different simply because you were born a generation Y child and were raised in an entirely different culture than generations before. Let’s shake our reputation of entitlement and continue changing and raising standards in the workplace. After all, as managers, isn’t that our job?
Bob Dylan once said, “Times, they-a changin!” And with the times, people are changing too. With each generation, children are raised up in a different world than yesterday and have different views than those ahead of them. Not only do fashion, technology, and styles change but so do the way people approach the workforce. So when we mix these different viewpoints in one building what happens?
The 20 Differences Between Baby Boomers and Gen Y
Unfortunately, Gen Y has been characterized as sensitive and entitled, having everything handed to us. Now, older generations have become fed up with our easy road to success. We have been set up not to fail and when we do, we shatter. We are extremely fragile because we have been babied our whole lives. However, this is a stereotype and it is not characteristic of all individuals apart of Gen Y. On the other hand, there is a negative expectation younger managers feel their older employees have of them which can be discouraging and create nervousness and a lack of authority in young managers. But it is our job to defy these expectations by proving our adequacy. Being an adequate manager means relating to those you are in charge of directing.
Get to know your employees. Befriend them while also being professional. Just because we can pinpoint several differences between generations doesn’t mean individuals can’t relate. When managing a different generation, particularly one that is older one must look for ways to connect with their employees. The best way to do this is by being yourself: kind, open, observant, and cordial. Your senior employees will appreciate your polite and kind attitude which will bridge the gap between the generations.
The biggest and most common mistake young managers make with their older employees is not taking action when critiques need to be made or feedback needs to be given in a less than positive light. Younger employees typically assume that since older workers have more experience that they know everything they need to know about the business but that is not the case. While experience is said to be the greatest teacher, nothing can ever be the perfect teacher thus improvements can always be made.
As a manager, you need to have a managerial angle and direction in which you are geared toward and employees need to be aware of your direction and style. If you have no clear direction or method of administration then employees will also lose direction. They will be unable to know what you expect of them and this will make it extremely difficult for them to produce results in the workplace that you desire to see. All in all, criticism is necessary whether your employees are younger or older than you.
6 Steps to Give Constructive Criticism
The Six Steps to Give Constructive Criticism describes using the “sandwich method” when offering criticism to your employees. When approaching an employee about a critique, begin with a compliment or something you like that they do. Following that, explain the area in which they need improvement. Conclude your critique with another positive reinforcement of the good work they do.
The most important thing to pay attention to when giving constructive criticism is to focus on the area that needs improvement, not the person themselves. This is to avoid making your workers feel attacked. You’re giving them this criticism for their own good, not to hurt them. If they understand your managerial style they will understand you only want to elicit the best possible work from them.
When first starting out in a managerial position it is important not to be “bossy” like a boss. You want to establish a relationship with your employees first and earn their respect. You need to learn how they operate as they are also discovering your managing style. It’s imperative that you do not distance yourself from your employees by placing your self on the pedestal of management. You must see eye to eye with your workers, not look down on them.
On the other hand, while you shouldn’t walk all over your employees you must not let them walk all over you either. Whenever making a decision, you need to stand firm and be sure to avoid second guessing yourself. Confidence is essential to strong managing skills and if your employees sense nervousness or a lack of confidence they will have trouble believing in you as an employer.You must believe in yourself but keep your head on your shoulders!
When critiquing your older employees, don’t let age influence your criticism. You need to be 100% honest and give them the best feedback possible. If they respect you as their employer then they will respect your opinion.
10 Ways to Manage Employees
Managing 4 Generations
If you are reading this you are most likely a member of one of these four generations: the mature generation (born before 1945), the baby boomer generation (1946- 1964), generation X (1965-1978/79), or generation Y (1980- 1995). Each of these generations is characterized by unique qualities which dictate the atmosphere of society’s current work setting.
The mature generation has been characterized as an affluent generation greatly influenced by and connected to the military. The baby boomer generation who comprises a large sum of power among the generations in the workforce has been described as the “generation of optimism, exploration, and achievement”.
According to Cam Marston, generation X is “the most miserable, cynical generation” of them all and generation Y has been repeatedly described as the “entitled generation” because our parents coddled us and we received trophies for everything we failed and succeeded in. And we are quickly taking up great space in the workforce, climbing the ranks in rapid motion.
Are all Millennials Entitled?
While there is clear evidence of differences in the workplace among large groups of individuals, rather than looking at these differences as obstacles, young managers need to look at them as opportunities for balance and an abundance of new ideas.
Combining the perspectives and ideas of multiple generations can result in a balancing act that creates a cohesive teamwork environment.
Humorous Look at Four Generations
As an employer and an employee, what motivates you?
- Social Interaction/Relationships?
- Making a difference?
If you answered yes to any of these options, then newsflash- You’re motivated! Now, do any of your motivations line up with those of your subordinates? If you care about money and climbing ranks, can you relate to any of your employees? If your chief priority is taking care of your family and maintaining a healthy workplace balance, do any of your employees feel the same way? As a manager, you should know this. If you don’t know the motivations of your employees it will be much harder to relate to them, and even harder with an additional age gap. When a lack of connection is present then respect is lost as well. Your job is to gain the respect of your employees and by doing so you need to understand that you aren’t the only motivate individual in the workplace. You are one of many who want to experience in some form. Success can be a happy family to some or a good title for others. Either way, you must use motivation to guide your employees to success for the success of the company.
Motivation in the Workplace
It’s evident that with an age gap between younger managers and older employees, there may be a culture clash. Different generations provide for unique values, work ethics, and approaches to the work environment. With these dissimilarities present, proper communication can close this gap. Each generation needs to be understanding and open to each other’s style of work. Observe what styles work and which do not. If one of your older employees has what you find to be unusual working techniques, look for elements of their strategies that work and be open to them. Of course be aware of things that don’t work and be sure to let your criticism be heard.
A major change occurring just in the last couple decades are the great advancements in technology. Due to these advancements, younger workers typically are more acclimated to the technology shifts in the workplace as opposed to older workers. However, as a young manager it is essential to never assume that simply because your employees are older than you, they can’t take on the projects that require specific knowledge of technology. You must have faith in your workers and their abilities. Unless they give you a reason to doubt them, you must place complete trust in them! On another note, technology has specifically changed how we communicate. It’s been revealed that the older generations prefer face to face communication, while more of the millennial generation prefers communication via text or email. As a result of this, it is important for younger managers to adjust their communication to that of their employees. You want your employees to feel comfortable communicating with you so if that means talking to specific employees face to face than make it a necessary point to do that rather than texting or email and vice versa.
Younger Bosses Managing Older Workers
The millennial generation has a reputation of being the “trophy generation” demonstrating a sense of entitlement and being spoiled with an “easy” road to success. These stereotypes illustrate truth in that we are a fast growing part of the workforce and soon will represent the majority of the workforce. As a result, younger workers are being promoted to higher positions more widely and rapidly than ever before. But rather than prove our “entitled” stereotype, we must demonstrate discipline and professionalism in our work ethic to earn the respect of those who grew up in a work environment very different from our own.
A company is a team! Without each contributing employee doing his/her particular part, the company cannot succeed. Think of the company as a body with each employee’s position as an organ functioning to keep the body alive. One position may represent the lungs; if the lungs fail, Oxygen will be unavailable and won’t be delivered to rest of the body. The result- the body stops breathing, as will the company. The employer and the employees are all apart of the body and work as a team for the survival of the business. As a consequence, step down from the pedestal of managing and always be aware that for you to succeed so do your employees; your counterparts and fellow organs. Mind you, a large component of your job is to make sure your employees are doing theirs but this does not make you in any way better or smarter. Your employees are the heart of the company and need to beat in perfect harmony to survive. The body is useless without the brain giving it direction but is dead without the heart.
Managing Employees That Are Older Than You
Just because you’re younger than your employees doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advise them on how to do their job. You’re job is to manage them, not shadow them. Being in a position of authority requires boldness, so anytime a sentiment of intimidation creeps up on you, push it away! This may require you to continuously persuade yourself that you are fully capable, confident, and worthy of respect. So my advice to you is speak up when something needs to be said….It’s your job.
Managing personality types fall along every part of the spectrum, ranging from nervous managers to overconfident managers to plain lazy ones. It’s important not to fall completely into anyone of these categories, however it is okay to possess bits of these qualities. We are human and we simply cannot be perfect. But we must always perform to the best of our abilities. If you maintain higher levels of nervousness when confronting older employees, you must counteract that with a larger sense of confidence than you truly possess. If you are generally overconfident, you may have to humble yourself when asking older employees their opinions on certain ideas you wish to act upon. If you care about the company you are apart of than you should want it to succeed which means acclimating to the conditions that will provide success.
As children we are all taught to respect our elders. We carry this lesson with us through our education, social lives, extracurricular activities, and careers. While this is all good and well; as children it appears our voices have little to no value at all. When older members of our families or social circles actually do listen to us, the response is typically a chuckle while others simply shake their heads. As a youngster, my intention was never to produce laughter from friends and family when I believed I had something truly insightful to say. Nevertheless, as I grew older and was no longer the youngest one in my generation I began to catch myself giggling at what my younger counterparts would say. I would laugh to myself thinking “how silly, they think they understand that”. Well perhaps they did understand or at least have some understanding. After all, we are all human and we all mature at a different pace. If I could grasp the concept of respecting my elders as a toddler, I could potentially comprehend ideas that may surprise them too, right?
Right! There are countless prodigal youngsters who have achieved success years before their time. Many have already graduated college by the time they reached the double digits in age. Some of these child prodigies include: Michael Kearney who taught college classes at Vanderbilt University after receiving his bachelor’s degree at age 10 and Alia Sabur who graduated summa cum laude from Stone Brook University also at age10.
So how should you feel when you’ve gained enough respect to find yourself in a management position….managing people much older than yourself? Young! Nonetheless, you were assigned your position for a reason and your subordinates should understand this. Although you may not have had as much time to hone in on your skills as your employees, you have spent your time wisely and been productive and efficient in performing the skills you are currently perfecting. As a manager you should understand the meaning of quality over quantity. It’s about the how effectively you have used your time, not how much time you’ve been allotted up to this point.