The impact of the Generation Gap

Many managers I deal with are currently experiencing problems in their relations with subordinate managers and other subordinate employees. Many comment on the fact employees are lazy or do not appear to have any interest in the business. Insubordination and poor attitude are also sighted as problem areas.
There is a saying that when you “mix youth with arrogance” you have a disaster on your hands. Is this not what we are facing today? Is this not part of the problem? Is it not perhaps something else?
One of the big problems facing managers and employees is the impact of the generation gap and the inability of individuals – managers and/or subordinates – to communicate and relate as a result of this gap.
The era in which a person was born affects their view of the world and significant events during this time mould their outlook and shape their values.
Each generation has distinct attitudes, behaviours, expectations and habits. Learning how to communicate with the different generations can eliminate many problems we are currently experiencing, not only in the workplace but also in life in South Africa.
This is particularly true when we relate the impact of the various generations to aspects of interpersonal and management relations. The relationship between manager and subordinate may well be impacted and have a negative effect in the area of communication, respect for authority and willingness to comply with instructions and standard.
Understanding your own generation and the generation of your subordinates can assist not only in the management of teams, but also in understanding and managing diversity issues and gaining insight into why people behave or respond in a certain way.
In order to be effective as managers and in order to cope with the challenges that confront us we need to get to know our employees as individuals. We need to identify with the generation gap that exists and learn how to relate to those from outside our own generation.
Successful cross-generational friendly companies have six specific similarities and common approaches to making their environments comfortable and focusing their people’s energies on core business issues.

1. Accommodate employee differences
They treat their employees as they do their customers. There is a real effort to accommodate personal scheduling needs, work-life balance issues, and non-traditional lifestyles. Each generation’s icons, language, and precepts are acknowledged, and language is used that reflects generations other than those “at the top.”

2. Create workplace choices
They allow the workplace to shape itself around the work being done, the customers being served, and the people who work there. Dress policies tend to be casual. The height and width of the chain of command tend to be shortened, and decreased bureaucracy is evident.

“Change” is an assumed way of living and working. In all these companies, the atmosphere could be described as relaxed and informal. There’s an element of humour and playfulness about most of their endeavours.

3. Operate from a sophisticated management style
The managers are a bit more polished than the norm. They appear to operate with finesse. They are more direct. They give those who report to them the big picture, specific goals and measurement guidelines. Most importantly they turn their people loose allowing them to do what is required while giving feedback, reward and recognition as appropriate.

4. Respect competence and initiative
They assume the best of their people. They treat everyone, from the newest recruit to the most seasoned employee, as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best. It is an attitude that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

5. Nourish retention
On a daily basis, they are concerned and focused on retention and on making their workplaces magnets for excellence. They offer lots of training, from one-on-one coaching opportunities to interactive computer-based training to an extensive and varied menu of classroom courses. Not only do they encourage regular lateral movement within their organisations, but they have broadened assignments.

6. Market internally
They spend time learning how to become the employer of choice in their industry and region, and they continually “sell the benefits” to retain the best and brightest of their employees.

In many instances the trust relationship between managers, subordinate managers and subordinate employees has broken down. Trust in general in SA, I might add is at an all time low. Can this perhaps be attributed to the Generation Gap?

© Des Squire (Managing Member) – AMSI and ASSOCIATES cc
Cell 0828009057

The Acorn Imperatives
Reproduced by kind permission of Deborah Laurel – Laurel and Associated, Ltd – Wisconsin USA –
Adapted from “Bridging the Generation Gap” facilitated by Deborah Laurel

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