This is a guest post from Roberta Chinsky Matuson, presenter of the Sept. 15 audio conference “Suddenly in Charge: Rules of the Road for Managing Up in the Top-Down World of Business.”
One-size-fits-all management might have worked in the ’50s, when men of a certain age managed younger workers, but today’s management team is quite diverse. No longer can you walk into an office and assume the 20-something person is just an employee. In many cases she is the manager. People of all ages are being thrown into the ranks of management with little or no training. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out! Here are some ways to minimize the commotion.
Younger boss, older workers
This scenario is becoming more common as mature workers rejoin the workforce. Younger managers need more than a training manual to help them navigate these muddy waters. They need to have an understanding of the values that are typically associated with the generation of people they are managing. They also need to figure out their staff’s motivation for working. What engages a baby boomer is much different than what motivates a millennial. Is the baby boomer looking for a promotion or looking for recognition? Is that baby boomer eager to take on more responsibility or does that person prefer to do the work and go home?
Older boss, younger workers
With all the attention the media is giving the millennials, the latest generation to hit the workplace, it’s no wonder managers are making assumptions about this group’s work ethic, or lack of it. Managing based on stereotypes involves little thought. Just treat everyone like they’re your kids and you should be fine, right? Of course don’t be surprised when they start acting like your kids.
You can teach older workers new tricks. Provide opportunities for older bosses to learn more about the younger people on their staff. When assembling project teams, select members from different generations to ensure the task is looked at from different perspectives. Provide training on intergenerational workforce issues so managers have a clear understanding of what it takes to engage employees across the generations.
Fluff or business strategy?
Most employees want the same thing, irrespective of which generation they are born into. They want work/life flexibility, respect from management and the opportunity to do meaningful work. Managers want to give their employees these things but in most cases need guidance on how to make this dream a reality.
Organizations that view intergenerational workforce training as a critical business strategy for attracting and retaining people will fare well regardless of the economic climate. Companies can no longer afford to sit back and hope that employees transform into solid managers by osmosis. It’s going to take a lot more than a wish to strengthen the people skills of your diverse management team. Begin by giving your managers tools to manage people of all ages and perhaps you’ll have fewer gray hairs yourself!
© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions (www.yourhrexperts.com) and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, HR Matters.