Giving and sharing help with millennials, their parents and managers
“A lot has been written about the intergenerational conflict brewing in our workplaces. With five generations in the workplace (more than ever before), many researchers see an atmosphere characterized by tension and misunderstanding. So, it’s not surprising that organizations are concerned about the impact of this tension on productivity and creativity” – Tania Lennon, Haygroup.
Various commentators and studies are trying to decipher these generations so that we can achieve more synergy and innovation. There are so many different ways of classifying it, but according to Tolbize’s 2008 study, typically the generations fall into five main categories:
Generational Difference: Myth or Reality? By Hay Group
In a recent thought paper titled, Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce published by Hay Group, they put some hypotheses to the test. They sought to answer the question: “Are the common perceived differences between different generations myth or reality?
1. Younger generations look to their leaders to provide meaning and purpose to their work. They look for a ‘sense of fulfilment’.
Myth: “Engaging people in the purpose of the organization” only emerges as being strongly valued in leaders by people over the age of 55. Nevertheless, Generation Y (compared to all other generations) are least impressed by leaders’ efforts to connect people with projects that are personally meaningful to them.
2. Organizations need to use different approaches to retain the younger generations. Some research suggest younger generations are less loyal and more willing to change (Smola and Sutton, 2002; Deal, 2007; Anatole, 2013); and that a work-life balance is more important than career progression (PWC, Next Gen study, 2013).
Myth: In our data, all generations cite the same attribute as the primary reason for staying at their company – exciting and challenging work. The second and third most important features that keep people in an organization are ‘opportunities to advance’ and ‘autonomy/freedom’. At 55+, ‘meaningful work’ replaces advancement opportunities. But autonomy and freedom remain important, regardless of age.
3. Each generation needs to be managed differently in order to keep them engaged and motivated. Because of the diverse needs of each generation, leaders should adopt different leadership skills for different generations.
Myth: We have seen a distinct pattern emerge when looking at the experiences and expectations of different generations in the workplace. However, when it comes to what people are looking for from their actual leaders, there are very few differences.
Leaders don’t need to develop ‘generation specific’ skills
The Hay Group paper continues: “Our organizational climate survey measures what people want from their leader versus what they are currently getting. From the degree of clarity required to a desire for innovation, it seems people are people, regardless of generation or age. Our data found that what we look for from our leaders remains fairly constant across generations. So leaders don’t need to develop ‘generation specific’ skills. They should be able to flex and adapt leadership styles to the needs of each individual. We don’t define people and their needs at work by gender or cultural background, and similarly it seems there is little evidence for making assumptions about the kind of work environment an employee wants based on their age. Leaders who are best at engaging and motivating their teams – and who get higher performance as a result – draw on a range of different leadership styles. They have the self-awareness to adapt their leadership style to the person and situation.
Generation Y – The Millennial Question by Simon Sinek
Another view has been raised by Simon Sinek. His focus is on the Millennials (Gen Y). He calls it the Millennial Question. Below are some excerpts from a recent interview on a session of InsideQuest. He listed the issues with millennials as:
1. Tough to manage.
2. They feel they are entitled.
3. They are narcissistic.
4. They are self-interested, unfocused and lazy.
In all of these, Simon Sinek says feeling entitled is the big one. And because they confound leadership so much, what’s happening is, leaders are asking the millennials what do you want? Their answer is, they want to work in a place with purpose and they want to make an impact. And yet for some reason, they are still not happy. And that is because there is a missing piece. What Simon Sinek has learned is that there are four pieces, four characteristics that make up the millennials, and they are: parenting, technology, impatience and environment.
Impact of Parenting on Millennials
Simon Sinek continues: “Firstly, the generation that we call the Millennials, too many of them grew up subject to failed parenting strategies, you know, where for example they were told that they were special all the time.
They were told that they can get anything they want in life just because they want it. Some of them got into honors’ classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained and some of them got A’s not because they earned them but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents.
Some kids got participation medals – you got a medal for coming in the last, right? The science we know is pretty clear, which is that it devalues the medal and the reward for those who actually work hard and it actually makes the person who comes in last feel embarrassed because they know they didn’t deserve it and that can make them feel worse right? So, you take this group of people and they graduate from school and they get a job and they’re thrust into the real world and in an instant they find out they’re not special and their Mums can’t get them a promotion. That you get nothing for coming in last and by the way, you can’t just have it because you want it right, and in an instant their entire self-image is shattered. The other problem to compound it is, we’re growing up in a Facebook – Instagram world. In other words, we’re good at putting filters on things; we’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I’m depressed right. And so everybody sounds tough and like they’ve got it all figured out and the reality is there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out. So, you have an entire generation growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations’ through no fault of theirs. They were dealt a bad hand.