You're a Baby Boomer, but increasingly your workforce is from Generation X or the Millennial generation. Today's supervisors and managers need to know and appreciate the different expectations of each group to get the most out of each employee. Even within a group, you'll get variations and differing personalities, but there are some general concepts that apply to each generation in the workplace.
Baby Boomers were born after World War II, between 1946 and 1964. When they entered the workforce, organizations used the command and control form of management. Employees didn't question what the boss said — out loud, anyway — and their input wasn't sought. In today's work environment, Baby Boomers can be given an assignment and they will go with it — they don't need a babysitter, and they don't want to babysit others.
Generation X employees were born between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s. Growing up, Gen Xers saw the vulnerabilities of governments and businesses. As a result, they feel it is their right to question actions and assignments, and think it's the company's duty to provide reasonable explanations for what it wants employees to do.
The next generation, the Millennials, grew up with technology that has changed every aspect of business. Millennials are constantly interacting by texting, tweeting or Facebooking. They like frequent feedback on their progress.
Picture a typical Baby Boomer manager with a typical Millennial employee. The manager is tempted to give out an assignment and walk away, expecting the Millennial to come back only when the assignment is completed. The Millennial, however, has different expectations. She wants to know more about the assignment and how it fits into the overall project. She wants to discuss an idea she has about doing the assignment. And she will text her thoughts to the manager instead of setting up a face-to-face meeting.
I was coaching a Baby Boomer supervisor who said a Millennial employee was driving him nuts. Why? The employee would complete his first work assignment each day and then seek the supervisor's input to make sure it was done correctly. The supervisor said the work was always done correctly, and the employee didn't need checking for the rest of the day — just that one time, but every single day.
This is a classic case of the Millennial employee needing that initial feedback and the Baby Boomer feeling frustrated that he needed to give it. I told the manager to realize his employee needs this connection to start him off on a productive day — however small the gesture seemed. In fact, I suggested he not wait for the employee to solicit feedback but to go directly to him each day, see if everything is in order, and then thank him for doing the job well, and then walk away knowing the employee will be motivated and productive for the remainder of the day.
Generation X and Millennial employees have shown all of us that businesses don't require a command and control method of managing to be effective and that they are able and willing to contribute as much as any Baby Boomer as long as they know they are a respected member of the team.
Once Baby Boomer supervisors understand the younger workers' desire for satisfaction and appreciation in the workforce, they will see that taking the time to provide a little positive feedback is a small price to pay for productive and motivated employees.
With his distinctive, direct and oft-humorous approach, "recovering attorney" and long-time business and executive coach Paul Glover bares his knuckles to present 76 strategies and tips to thrive in the Knowledge Economy in his new book, WorkQuake, published by Round Table Companies. The blogger for FastCompany.com coined the term WorkQuakeTM of the Knowledge Economy to capture his unique insights and tools to implement organizational change in the knowledge economy. Paul's writing has been featured in The Business Edge, Vistage, Manufacturing.net, and Food Manufacturing. He is based in Chicago.