Managers need to be flexible

When it comes to working with their intergenerational colleagues, too many people ask, “Why can’t they do it like we did?”

The response of Debra Seeger, senior vice president and co-founder of Brookfield-based Patina Solutions, is that it is because they are different. Each generation has grown up in a different time with different experiences and, therefore, generally has different qualities.

“All generations bring gifts,” said Seeger, who has researched and spoken on generational attitudes in the workplace for 25 years. “We need to find out what they are and tap those gifts.”

According to Seeger, Traditionals’ gifts include wisdom, a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit. Baby Boomers are critical thinkers, loyal and natural leaders. Generation X is collegial and creative. Millennials are socially aware and fearless.  

In order to successfully work with other generations, Seeger said people need to recognize that “they’re not like you, and that’s OK.”

Seeger also said to consider the generation’s general attitude toward work. For example, does the generation like to multi-task? Are they tech-savvy? Do they want flexibility?

Managers want to treat all employees the same way, but Seeger said various generations call for different work styles because they are not incented the same way.

Another method to improve intergenerational relationships in the workplace, according to Seeger, is to conduct both traditional and “reverse mentoring,” where the younger generations teach the older generations.

Finally, Seeger said it is important to acknowledge that every generation is going to be viewed as less incented and motivated by older generations. Also, members of a generation may think one way presently, but that is likely to change as they move through different life stages.

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