With Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers all working side-by-side in today’s workplace, each generation has different expectations for conflict resolution, performance feedback and work-life balance. These generational differences in the workplace impact communication, which in turn affects job performance.
As an Executive Search Consultant, I work closely with many former military members who use technical jargon to describe their skills. Since most non-service members are not familiar with this vernacular, we end up with a communication disconnect. Two people are talking about precisely the same thing, but neither person understands the other. This is the exact same communication disconnect that happens because of generational differences in the workplace.
When working with managers and employees of all ages, I recommend the following to improve communication and boost performance:
Recognize different reactions to conflict. Gen Yers prefer to solve problems immediately and directly, according to a PayScale, Inc. study. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, in contrast, are more likely to respect the chain of command and organizational hierarchy and are consequently less likely to speak up over perceived minor conflicts. As a manager, don’t assume that Gen Yers are simply prone to complaining. Take the time to listen and engage with Gen Yers; they perform best when they believe their voice is being heard.
Identify successful feedback techniques. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers expect corporate success to be recognized through a traditional hierarchy of promotions, pay raises and job title changes. Gen Yers, however, crave immediate and continual feedback to ensure they are “on target” with organizational goals, according to a Lightspeed Research survey. Rather than relying on a yearly performance review, institute a mentoring program for improved engagement and performance.
Understand work-life balance expectations. While quality of life is certainly important to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, these generations are also more likely to put professional demands above personal needs. The Lightspeed Research survey also found that Gen Yers, in contrast, expect to use technology to achieve a better balance between their personal and professional lives. When appropriate, offer telecommuting to incentivize performance and address work-life balance expectations.
What are the biggest generational differences in the workplace that you face? How is your team addressing these differences? I welcome your comments below.