Clashes with the “What’s In It for Me?” Generation

I hear about the frustrations more frequently: managers are concerned about their younger workers. Clashes are popping up. I call them generational clash points, a term I picked up from Cam Marston’s insightful book, Motivating the ‘What’s In It for Me’ Workforce.

What are the major clashes that arise when older managers work with younger people? It’s all about values, isn’t it? What people value will direct their focus and energy in different ways. Without understanding generational differences, managers face certain clash points.

The problems are coming up as younger workers become more prevalent in the workplace. Combined, Gen X and Gen Y already outnumber Boomers and Veterans. Boomers no longer hold the majority vote, although they hold most of the positions of power.

I see this often when I go into companies to present workshops. This transition is not something organizations can ignore. Managers must learn to leverage each generation’s strengths for the benefit of all, or risk becoming less productive.

There is no room to allow tradition and convenience to hinder 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.

Clash Point #1: Attitude about Work

Older workers talk about “going to work” and have always had a specified work schedule like 9-to-5. Younger workers view work as “something you do,” anywhere, any time. They communicate 24/7 and expect real-time responses.

To younger workers, success is defined not by rank or seniority, but by what matters to each person individually.  They don’t want to be paid for time, but for their services and skills. For those with working spouses and children, work-life balance and flexible conditions have greater priority.

Clash Point #2: How We Communicate

Ask anyone over the age of 40 about younger workers, and you’ll hear stories about texting, cell phones and ear buds. These tech-immersed young workers are just as frustrated with older workers, who respond days later and think setting up a team meeting is the answer, when a few text messages could get faster results.

Older workers can’t expect the newer generation to digress into the past. Technology needs to be understood and used by everyone to improve productivity.

Clash Point #3: Meetings

Older workers expect a phone call or 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.

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.

What are some of the clash points you’ve encountered with your younger workers? I’d love to hear from you.

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