First Step in Working with Multiple Generations

I’ve got all the generations . . . a Traditionalist Dad; a Baby Boomer husband; a Generation Y son; a Linkster daughter and my community non-profit work with multiple Generation Xers.  And everyone is working in some capacity.  Even my Dad, age 94, is a corporate attorney and goes into his office every day.

In today’s work world, we have the opportunity but also the challenge of working with all five generations.  Each generation has different expectations, experiences and expertise to bring to the table.  And each also has their prefered ways of communicating as any parent of a teenager knows.  All of these differences can make the daily job of the project manager, team leader or supervisor infinately more complex and challenging.

First Step:  Know the Generational Context

I’ve found that reading about the “generational context” that each of these generations grew up in has been invaluable in understanding the lenses that they see themselves, their colleagues and their jobs.  It’s amazing the differences in generational perspective!

One of my favorite books is Generations, INC: From Boomers to Linksters – Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work, Meagan Johnson & Larry Johnson, 2010.  Written by a father-daughter team in a lively converational style, this book is filled with research and personal interviews to help us appreciate how each generation perceives their world around them. And the authors go a step further by giving us concrete tips on how to lead and be led by each of these generations.  It’s a must-have book if you’re in a leadership position or now working for someone in a different generation than yourself.

What Works with Each Generation

This is my short cut list of how to maximize the gifts each generation brings to their work.

  1. Traditionalist (1918-1945) Use their life wisdom especially in times of change.
  2. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) Give them new challenges to stretch & grow.
  3. Generation X (1965-1980) Keep things moving & provide autonomy.
  4. Generation Y (1981-1995) Have them take the lead with technology.
  5. Linksters (born after 1995) Tap into their expertise with social networking.

And it goes both ways . . . you may find yourself as a Baby Boomer working for that Generation Y boss.  If so, grab up this book, keep your sense of humor and enjoy the ride!


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