“Tradition, tradition! Tradition!” – Jerry Bock, Fiddler on the Roof
Management styles of yore still lurk in the hallways of business big and small all around the world today. However, with Generation Y beginning to take a larger stake in those same businesses, it may be time for managers to take a look at those traditions and see how to make them work with Generation Y employees.
Generation X and Boomers grew up in a world where they had to earn the right to be heard, respected, and valued. On the flip side, Generation Y has had a heard and valued voice from day one. Thanks to social media, they’ve had an audience since childhood, parents who made every minor success a celebrated event and gave them the freedom and flexibility to share all their thoughts, ideas, and experiences with the masses. These employees grew up in a different world from that where you had to constantly prove your worth, ability, and value to gain respect and recognition. By the same token, they also grew up in a world that was often volatile, full of immediate change, and huge tragedy.
Events like September 11th, Columbine, and Virginia Tech were part of their teen and college years. Youtube and Netflix became household names where you could speak and reach thousands of eager listeners or binge-watch your favorite programs without the intrusion of commercial breaks or waiting a week or more for the next episode to air.
Generation Y-ers may seem impatient, overconfident, and ambitious, but stepping back and looking at the world through their stylish vintage glasses, their world has been full of reasons to live in the “now,” share any and all thoughts with whomever they may deem needs the information regardless of chain of command, and to have an inflated sense of self thanks to their “child-centric” Boomer parents. These employees have some roadblocks for managers to overcome, but they also are a valuable resource for change, innovation, and growth.
Some helpful strategies to successfully managing Generation Y include:
- Bond. To really bond with a Generation Y-er is to become an expert coach. Praise them when they do well since they are accustomed to it and guide them and encourage them when they struggle to show them how to succeed. Unlike their parents and teachers, though, if they continue to struggle and not meet goals, they don’t get to keep a job just for participating, they get the boot. But interact with them often. They appreciate and want regular feedback and explain the “why’s” of the workplace. These employees grew up in an era where their “Why’s?” were answered in excruciating detail unlike Boomers and Generation X-ers who likely heard “Because I said so” when they posed a simple “Why?” as a youngster.
- Be blunt. They don’t want to hear about the “good old days” and feel like their world is being coated in sugar. Tell them like it is and coach them on the issues of today, skipping the “back in my day” speeches. Communication is key. Generation Y has been communicating since the moment they learned how to speak and there has always been a willing audience. They expect to be treated much the same. As James Humes says, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” This one skill above all else will go a long way in effectively learning to manage Generation Y in the workplace.
- Shake things up. Get rid of outdated rules, be clear about workplace expectations (including texting, gaming at work, social media usage, etc), consider virtual work environments, flextime schedules, and have fun. Generation Y finds ways to fit fun into their every day and holds it close. Remember these are the people who grew up running active shooter and lockdown drills in school. They grab life by the horns and carve out moments in every day to celebrate it.
But as Author and Adjunct Professor London Business School, Tammy Erickson, reminds, the most important talent a manager can have is to understand themselves. This knowledge of who you are and your strengths and weaknesses is the foundation needed to truly be able to relate to others while leading them to success. Great leaders aren’t always born, they are molded carefully over time; crafted into successful communicators, cheerleaders, mentors, coaches, and authorities with hard work, dedication, and training.
Contact us today to see how you can hone your management skills to work seamlessly with employees of every generation. We build great leaders in every generation.