Tips for Managing Employees From Different Generations

Joe Weinlick
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Age diversity brings a vast knowledge base that can make your company better at developing in-demand products and services. However, unlocking this potential means rising above generational differences and motivating your employees to embrace the valuable perspectives, skills and experience of their peers. Adept leaders have the power to unify a diverse workforce, making it essential for your management team to break down barriers to communication and collaboration.

Question Everything You Know

Assumptions prevent you from making accurate assessments of the people around you, so put aside shallow stereotypes about generational differences. Instead of expecting baby boomers to crave control and resist change or millennials to be entitled technology addicts, adopt the mindset that all employees want to succeed, improve the company and earn respect. A positive outlook helps you evaluate the individual strengths and values of your workers and build strong relationships among your team.

Give Equal Consideration

Managers who view generational differences from a negative perspective are more likely to be skeptical of workers' ideas and complaints, downplaying the value of their insights. Listening to all employees creates trust and keeps you informed about what's happening behind the scenes. A perceptive Gen Xer might seek fewer formal meetings to increase productivity, not simply to have more personal time. That self-starting millennial might be right about the lack of feedback affecting teamwork and product development. Giving equal consideration shows employees that age and status aren't more important than expertise and good ideas, encouraging them to put their egos aside and be open to learning from others.

Be a Facilitator

Adaptability is a manager's greatest tool, and tailoring your leadership style to individual employees can help facilitate cultural shifts and onboarding without generational differences ever becoming a significant problem. In most cases, employee strengths and weaknesses don't dramatically change over time, making it futile to force workers to act against their natures. When you focus on understanding how each employee thinks, learns and succeeds, you become better at empowering them in meaningful ways.

Build Multigenerational Teams

Age diversity offers limited value to your company when generational groups are largely isolated from one another. If you want employees to see beyond generational differences, create opportunities for social bonding and reciprocal learning. Use mentoring and multigenerational teams to help employees of all ages train new skills and observe new problem-solving methods. Career development is a universal goal, and collaboration allows co-workers to share their values and expectations on a personal level, increasing respect and mutual understanding.

Clarify Cultural Expectations

Generational differences frequently stem from conflicting definitions of hard work. For example, emphasizing constructive relationships and productivity over hours worked or communication methods can show employees that specific work styles and values aren't inherently better or worse than others. Reinforcing the company mission increases individual accountability while enabling workers to meet performance goals on their own terms.

When managing generational differences, recognize that experience is a product of circumstance and initiative, not age. A millennial who grew up working in a family business may be a better leader than her Gen X peers, and a baby boomer with a knack for networking may prove to be an exceptional social media manager. All employees bring distinct value to the table, but you can only discover it by giving everyone a chance to excel.

Photo courtesy of Nguyen Hung Vu at


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