“They criticize our generation, but they forget who raised it.”
In today’s workforce we have four generations of workers. Effective leaders understand the perspectives, values, and paradigms that shape each generation and the all-encompassing and frequently discussed subject of generational leadership.
It is interesting that this topic was not discussed as I was being shaped in the leadership ranks circa 1977. We spent lots of time learning human relations, equal opportunities, and supervisor-subordinate interactions. We did not focus on the differences that were present in each of us basically because of the timeframe we were born or raised in. We did not spend enough time on the “why” in each of us.
Leaders today, clearly recognize there is great value in knowing the characteristics of each of the generations in the workplace and using that knowledge to effect and ensure a positive workplace climate, establish expectations, and forecast attainable outcomes.
The generations that today’s leaders work with are generally identified with these names and dates of inclusion: traditionalists (1926-1946), baby boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1984), and the Y generation/millennials (1982-2004).
Each of these generations received their example, education, norms, values, and setting of expectations from the generation who raised them but there are great differences in each of them that can produce tension and frustrations that show in the workplace.
“A little friction in an organization is a good thing” ~ Colonel (Ret) Albert J. Bowley Jr.
In retirement, I spend my time and focus my energy as a leadership educator, mentor, and writer. When in a group setting of leaders, aspiring or presently-leading, when asked, “what do you want to learn more about as a leader or what challenges you greatly as a leader?” the most common answer is the different generations in the workplace.
As a baby boomer, I came up learning from the greatest generation and traditionalists: those who were alive during and served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I knew why they held the values they had, why I should be respectful of those, and how to peacefully co-exist with others who were different than me. I learned this by listening, watching, and participating in face to face discussions with them. Did it make me a better leader? I think it shaped my perspective to be knowledgeable, open, and accepting. These are qualities each of us seeks in leaders and role models.
As leaders, one of our primary responsibilities is to develop and grow those around us; maybe it is time for a professional development event on the generations that occupy our workspaces and fill our teams. We spend roughly 30% of our lives working. Successful work environments contain effective interactions with our co-workers and are built on trust, mutual concern, and shared commitment to the success of the organization. One of the greatest ways to ensure these occur is to understand who you lead and “the why” in each of them.
Generational leadership has an important place in a 21st century leader’s toolbox; do you have that tool in your box and are you growing your team’s awareness to this critical topic?