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Managing different generations at work.

Does every generation present a different face in the workplace? Some sociologists and management experts, not afraid of being accused of facile generalizations, say yes, and offer overall attributes for each group.

The Loyalty Factor, a training and management consulting firm based in Portsmouth, N.H., even includes a module in its training curriculum on Managing Today's Multigenerational Workforce, which "teaches leaders how to effectively deal with employees of all ages." Loyalty Factor trainers stress that workers of differing ages must not be led and managed in the same manner.


"Every generation is motivated by different factors and brings their own expectations into the workforce," says Loyalty Factor President Dianne Durkin. "True leaders recognize those differences and manage their employees accordingly."

As Durkin explains it, the different generations sometimes have overlapping or complimentary attitudes; understanding these attitudes may be very useful for employers. In an interview, Durkin surveyed the generations now in the workplace and made these observations:

* 1. Veterans -- born 1922 to 1945: They want very clear direction, she says. "They grew up in a world where no one bucked authority. It you give them a job, they want to go do it." They are willing to work hard, and they're loyal and dependable, with strong value systems; often, they brought their children into their own companies.

In a team environment, she says, "they need a strong leader who enforces the rules and agreements." They need to see the benefits of a new approach, and may be inclined to say, "We've never done it that way before."

* 2. Baby Boomers -- born 1946-1964: The fabled Boomers, the largest generation in American history, commonly rejected their parents' core values in their earlier years. "They invented work as self-fulfillment and proving themselves," Durkin says, and have "defined themselves by their careers. Many are in management." They can be self-righteous and self-absorbed, she says.

Yet the Boomers see a lack of respect for authority in the succeeding group, "Generation X," and resent that. In teams, Durkin says, Boomers "have to have a meaningful role, and to prove themselves. That can override the commitment to the team."

* 3. Generation X -- born 1965-80. Unlike the Boomers, "Xers" view work as just a job, Durkin says: "They work to live, not live to work, and they want balance in their lives. You need to give them freedom and autonomy; but they also need support. Give them a goal and let them be creative; they don't want the guidance." Women in this group typically want more balance than Baby Boomer women, she adds.

Xers "don't take criticism well; they think they know it all," she says. "They need recognition and continuous reinforcement--they got it as they were growing up from computers; now they want it from people." In part because of their preoccupation with computers, "they're not always good with people skills."

On a team, Durkin says, Xers "need a clear mission and well-defined goals. They are cynical by nature." The employer has to provide an opportunity to work and grow, or they are going to leave. "Their loyalty is nil," she adds, and many want to work independently.

* 4. "Nexters" -- born since 1980: The oldest in this latest generation are just joining the workforce, and many are still serving as interns. "They have some of traits of the veterans, as well as the Xers," Durkin says. "They are not like the Boomers, who are their parents. They're very goal-focused, very curious about what works. We recommend them working with veterans."

Boomers had mentors, she adds, but Nexters have numerous mentors. "They recognize they can't learn everything from any one person. As an employer, you'd better tell them about the future of the company. Yet they are willing to sacrifice pleasure for the collective good."

In teams, Nexters can be very effective, but they want a strong leader for guidance and well-defined goals, she says. "They're very worldly from the perspective of knowledge," having been bombarded with electronic and computer messages all their lives. And, she adds, they actually get along relatively well with the Xers because both groups realize they don't want to be micromanaged.
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Author:Marshall, Jeffrey
Publication:Financial Executive
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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