Older workers expect a phone call or a visit on important issues and will immediately schedule and plan a meeting to involve significant stakeholders. This frustrates younger workers, who want to meet on the spur of the moment, as soon as possible.
When I’m coaching older managers, I listen to their complaints and they have a point. But so do younger workers.
For example, they see nothing wrong with texting superiors and peers instead of scheduling face-to-face meetings, and they like to communicate and solve problems virtually. When faced with a need to meet, they try to contact everyone immediately and begin videoconferencing, chatting, texting, talking and tweeting—often all at the same time.
Older colleagues prefer to find a time and day that fits everyone’s schedule—which can delay meeting for days or weeks. They fit things into their routines and calendars. To Gen Y, the ritual of workplace scheduling is stifling, unproductive and a waste of time.
The younger people may have a point. But to older colleagues, a seat-of-the-pants approach is irritating. They also have a point: It doesn’t give them enough time to think things through, nor to adequately prepare for a politically influential outcome.
Clash Point #4: Learning
Older generations are linear learners, comfortable sitting in classes, reading manuals and pondering materials before beginning to implement new programs.
Newer workers learn “on demand,” which to Boomers means they just want to “wing it,” figuring things out as they go. Gen-Y learning is interactive, using the Internet, Wikipedia and blogs. They rely on Google and web searches to find answers.
Gen Y doesn’t hesitate to call a friend or send an email directly to the CEO. They ask questions and get their information instantaneously. They are easily bored by training sessions, manuals and programs that spoon-feed information over time.
Issues You Can’t Ignore
Here’s why your company can’t afford to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, hoping people will work out the details among themselves:
Gen X is a smaller generation, almost half the size of the Boomer generation. Gen Y is large—very large. This newer generation is much larger than the 77 million Boomers. Combined, Gen X and Gen Y already outnumber the Boomers and Seniors, making the 40 and younger crowd the largest segment of the workplace. Boomers no longer hold the majority vote, although most hold positions of power and responsibility.
This transition in power and influence is not something organizations can avoid or ignore. Managers must learn to leverage each generation’s strengths for the benefit of all, or risk becoming less efficient and productive because of the inherent conflicts.
There is no room to allow tradition and convenience to hinder changes that boost performance and productivity. There’s also not much room for generational judging or complaining.
Managers must create opportunities for a multigenerational work force to share its differences. To hire and retain high performers, leaders must also provide flexible options. Look for ways to benefit from each generation’s assets to inspire understanding, collaboration and creativity.