Generations At Work

It’s fair to begin this blog post outlining that many Gen Xers and Boomers think Gen Yers (or Millennials as I prefer to call them):

  • Are unmotivated
  • Are selfish
  • Have sort attention spans
  • Have expanded perceptions of self-worth, expectations and entitlement
  • Are not loyal to the company


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All of this was reconfirmed for me recently when I was delivering a communication-training program to an audience at a large multinational client.

We were briefly discussing communication similarities & differences between Boomers and Millennials. I was pointing out how Millennials are more engaged at work when they:

  • Are rewarded regularly
  • Know the key project objectives
  • Understand how their input makes a difference
  • See how they might benefit (what they might learn for example)

While I was mid sentence a participant (Boomer), flat-out stated, ”It’s never going to happen. We don’t have time to hold their hand every step of the way. This is a job and they [Millennial] have to grow up.

It’s important you know that the next point I was going to make during this training was that Boomers are motivated by very similar things. 

I’ll be the first to agree that when anybody is at work they should be expected to exceed their goals in a harmonious, respectable way. It doesn’t matter if you see your work as something that fulfills you – or your work simply pays the bills and you find fulfillment elsewhere.

The perspective I don’t agree with is that employees should not need to know the purpose of what we are doing. I believe employees of all age should know why their work is important and meaningful – and that this knowledge will help create motivated and very loyal people. 

As often is the case, my beliefs begin by a bit of self reflection, then a review of my knowledge / experience and then lots of research.

When I look at my own behaviour, I’m much more engaged in a project and it’s outcome when I know the project objectives and why I’ve been selected to work on that project… and for the record I’m a Boomer. I see more and more evidence that every generation wants to be respected, compensated fairly and have opportunities to grow – professionally and / or personally.

Want further support from someone else?  Jennifer J. Deal, a research scientist with the Center for Creative Leadership suggests in her book called Retiring the Generation GapThe so-called generation gap is, in large part, the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding, fueled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.

I don’t have my own scientific study but I agree whole heartily… here’s why. When I had a staff at Scotiabank I was managing other Boomers and Gen Yers (most Millennials were still in school). I recognized early on that my staff were far more engaged when they:

  • Were verbally rewarded regularly
  • Knew the key project objectives
  • Understood how their input makes a difference
  • Saw how they might benefit (what they might learn)

Just like Millennials.

I also noticed that the quality of the work my staff did was highest when they were engaged this way – and it took them less time to get important work done… a great Time Management benefit.

I believe every leader needs to recognize that these traits lead to committed employees – they are not the sole needs of spoiled Millennials. This list of needs reflect most people’s behavior and desire to make a difference and be recognized for their contribution.

So, my point continues that if we hand out work as ‘tasks’ then we should not be surprised when the Boomer, Gen Yer or Millennial we gave the job to does only as much as they think needs to get done. But, when we hand out ‘work’ and important and meaningful opportunities to make a difference then we are going to see a much different level of commitment, creativity and satisfaction – and this behavior will impact job satisfaction and ultimately client satisfaction.

With clear communication all your relationships will change – professionally and personally.

Happy communicating.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

One Response to Generations At Work

  1. Pingback: Listening Skills: Are Yours Motivating Others To Be Their Best? « Bruce Mayhew Blog: Business Communication

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