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Dealing With Others in the Workplace: Generational Differences Essay

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Updated: Aug 11th, 2021

Introduction

The success of leaders and managers can be evaluated concerning multiple aspects of performance, including their ability to appeal to different followers and employees. Nowadays, the millennial generation and these people’s unique employee characteristics are among the most discussed topics in the field of leadership and management. Based on modern research, apart from the general leadership values, one should use inspirational communication and internal branding, as well as offer personal growth opportunities and regular feedback to lead millennials effectively.

Topic in the Context of Organizational/Work Life

Today, the topic of intergenerational differences at work attracts the attention of numerous researchers concerned with the problems of effective leadership. Social and financial circumstances play a significant role in a person’s development, and this is why employees belonging to particular generations can demonstrate similar behaviors when responding to some situations (Lyons et al. 346). Despite the threat of stereotypes, the study of generations can help to understand changes in people’s perceptions of work related to intergenerational differences, thus helping leaders and managers to measure their success more accurately (Lyons et al. 346; Smith 256).

According to recent findings, millennials and older generations perceive the meaning of their work in different ways, and it can impact their approaches to task completion and communication in the workplace (Weeks and Schaffert 1045). Since the proportion of millennials in both large- and small-scale businesses will continue to increase, leaders and managers should be aware of the key characteristics of the generational cohort to reduce workplace conflicts and workforce liquidity.

Dealing with Millennials: Research and Recommendations

Leadership and management are interconnected fields of study focusing on the psychology of business relationships and the most effective ways to organize work, coordinate other people’s efforts, and encourage collaboration. Several communication problems can affect leaders or managers, and the proposed approaches to solving them vary greatly. Some researchers, for instance, Pfeffer, list selective hiring among the measures that reduce problems in the workplace (134).

In other words, to perform their duties successfully, managers and leaders should have a clear picture of individuals to fulfill particular roles in their companies. A similar idea is defended by Lawler who supposes hiring people whose values and goals align with those of an employer as one of the key prerequisites to success (“Hire the Right People” 177). Based on these suggestions from research, it is possible to suppose that employees’ characteristics play a significant role in their behaviors and perspectives. The presence of shared generational identities and connected behavioral tendencies is a particular example of factors that leaders and managers should consider to build fruitful relationships with different employees.

The topic of the millennial generation as employees is extremely popular today, and numerous authors offer their perspectives on the generational group and the ways to deal with their needs. In non-peer-reviewed research, opinions on the objective existence of generation-based differences may vary. For instance, in his interview, Simon Sinek claims that millennials tend to be more selfish, individualistic, ambitious, and dependent on technology compared to other generations (“Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace”).

Based on these assumptions, he states that leading millennials in an effective way involves shifting their attention from ambitious dreams to real-life communication skills and an ability to build patience (“Simon Sinek on Millennials”). However, some authors associate such generalizations with an act of overcoloring and argue that similarities between generations are more significant than differences (Pfau). According to that viewpoint, employees’ behavioral characteristics relate to the stage of life, and leaders or managers should take team members’ age into account to succeed in communication (Pfau). Thus, generational differences are widely discussed in modern literature about business and management.

Motivating others belongs to the key tasks that leaders and managers have to fulfill to help the team to approach its goal. It is widely accepted that people should be rewarded for their efforts and hard work. To become actual motivators, rewards should be valued by individuals and chosen based on the degree of importance that particular people attach to positive reinforcement at work (Lawler, “Motivating and Satisfying Excellent Individuals” 424).

According to a qualitative study by Holmberg-Wright et al., the representatives of the millennial generation find opportunities for learning, personal growth, and career promotion to be extremely effective motivators (16).

These findings partially support Sinek’s claims about millennials’ ambitiousness and desire to differentiate themselves from others. However, at the same time, the study explores the myth about this generation’s poor social skills resulting from overreliance on online communication. Instead, Holmberg-Wright et al. demonstrate that millennials enjoy interpersonal communication and can be motivated and inspired with its help (16). Thus, managers and leaders collaborating with millennials should focus on providing opportunities and engaging employees in communication to motivate them.

Apart from employee promotions, people who lead the teams of millennials should develop an effective approach to giving feedback. As for general recommendations peculiar to any group of employees, some things to avoid include associating feedback only with negative or unpleasant statements and sharing thoughts that are not action-oriented or relevant to employees’ personality traits (Robbins and Finley 454).

To make collaboration with millennials mutually beneficial, leaders can also consider their unique characteristics when offering critique. Based on recent research, employees in this group value instant feedback that is presented using modern means of communication and contains positive statements in addition to critical comments (Holmberg-Wright et al. 16; Ray and Singh 25). The frequency of getting feedback is also significant – according to the results of focus groups, millennials prefer “ongoing conversations” over “annual reviews” (Holmberg-Wright et al. 18). Thus, leaders can be advised to comment on these employees’ work regularly.

The proper use of emotional intelligence can also help managers to achieve success when working with different generations, including millennials. As is stated by Caruso and Salovey, an ability to recognize other people’s feelings and read both verbal and non-verbal signs accurately enables managers to build positive relationships at work (397). Placed in the context of actual and presumed intergenerational differences between employees, managers need to develop emotional intelligence seems to increase.

For instance, as the results of modern survey studies suggest, less than a fifth of millennials believe that “most people can be trusted,” whereas this opinion is shared by forty percent of baby boomers (Robertson 125). Another important fact is that millennials present the most racially diverse generational group (Robertson 125). Since people of the working-age become more heterogeneous in terms of ethnicity and less likely to trust others, managers and leaders should improve their communication and emotion recognition skills, as well as awareness of culture-specific ways to demonstrate feelings.

Continuing on emotional intelligence, leaders should know how to make millennials emotionally engaged in work. With the generation’s entrance into the U. S. workforce, labor fluctuation rates grew rapidly (Özçelik 100). To reduce this problem and help millennials to build strong collaborative relationships, leaders and managers are recommended to implement internal branding techniques, including training support, internal communication, or team building events (Özçelik 100). If used properly, such methods can increase employee motivation and make millennials more emotionally attached to their organizations, thus preventing them from making headlong quitting decisions.

It is known that millennials concentrate on making an impact. Therefore, they are likely to become more motivated and engaged if they feel that their opinion matters (“Simon Sinek on Millennials”). Sample’s principles of artful listening can be helpful in this regard; according to the author, listening carefully and actively before making judgments provides leaders with an opportunity to approach one problem from different points of view (356). This way of listening to followers, especially millennials, can prevent leaders from making multiple mistakes. For instance, it can reduce ageism against young specialists and make them feel more valued at work.

Conclusion

To sum it up, millennials are not entirely different from other generational groups, but some tendencies related to their behaviors and perceptions of work should inform the selection of employee communication strategies by leaders and managers. The use of proper motivators, including opportunities for personal growth and learning, is critical to success. Moreover, the generation’s preferences regarding the frequency and content of feedback can be taken into account. Finally, leaders and managers are expected to use emotional intelligence and active listening to launch internal branding efforts and make millennials emotionally involved in work.

Works Cited

Caruso, David R., and Peter Salovey. “Read People: Identifying Emotions.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 396-405.

Holmberg-Wright, Kristin, et al. “More than Money: Business Strategies to Engage Millennials.” Business Education Innovation Journal, vol. 9, no. 2, 2017, pp. 14-23.

Lawler, Edward E. “Hire the Right People.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 177-200.

—. “Motivating and Satisfying Excellent Individuals.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 423-449.

Lyons, Sean, et al. “Generational Differences in the Workplace: There Is Complexity Beyond the Stereotypes.” Industrial and Organizational Psychology, vol. 8, no. 3, 2015, pp. 346-356.

Özçelik, Gaye. “Engagement and Retention of the Millennial Generation in the Workplace Through Internal Branding.” International Journal of Business and Management, vol. 10, no. 3, 2015, pp. 99-107.

Pfau, Bruce N. “Harvard Business Review. 2016. Web.

Pfeffer, Jeffrey. “Seven Practices of Successful Organizations.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 133-176.

Ray, Prantika, and Manjari Singh. “Effective Feedback for Millennials in New Organizations.” Human Resource Management International Digest, vol. 26, no. 4, 2018, pp. 25-27.

Robbins, Harvey, and Michael Finley. “How to Give Feedback.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 450-457.

Robertson, Marc. Working with Millennials: Using Emotional Intelligence and Strategic Compassion to Motivate the Next Generation of Leaders. ABC-CLIO, 2016.

Sample, Steven B. “Artful Listening.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 356-372.

YouTube, uploaded by David Crossman. 2016. Web.

Smith, Douglas K. “Pick Relevant Metrics.” Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader, edited by Tamara Keller and Rob Brandt, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pp. 256-278.

Weeks, Kelly Pledger, and Caitlin Schaffert. “Generational Differences in Definitions of Meaningful Work: A Mixed Methods Study.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 156, no. 4, 2019, pp. 1045-1061.

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