Current research on workforce demographics can make anyone a better cross-generational manager especially with Boomers and Millennials. This is a compilation of conversations overhead, reported to me, or in which I was a participant. If you manage people born between 1946 and 1959 or those born since 1981, this information should provoke changes in your management style. Full disclosure: No Boomer or Millennial said all of this.
Boomer: I know you work hard at your job but I feel the job isn’t your passion. What don’t you like about working here?
Millennial: Friends and I are building a side business. It is really exciting. I’m here because I need to support myself and my ideas. My future is in self employment. I hope to learn how to run a business while I’m here. If I get too engaged in this job it saps my energy for my own business.
Boomer: But my expectation is that you give your all to the job we hired you to do! I see you hanging back. You work by the clock. You’re out of here at quitting time. I thought you’d be grateful that we hired you and try to make us happy.
Millennial: That’s unrealistic. You hired me to do a job. I’m doing it well. That’s all you have a right to expect! Was passion in the job description? Did you spell out that I was to show gratitude as a condition of employment?
Boomer: Are my expectations unreasonable? Any manager expects employees to work harder in hard times. I would think you’d be glad every day to have a job and want to make me happy.
Millennial: How so? Can you specify what would make you happy? I thought you were interested in work done well and deadlines met. That’s not what you want, right?
Boomer: Of course I want good work but I also want you to convince me you want to be here.
Millennial: Why? How would that improve my performance? Look, I’m just passing through. If it’s too much of a hassle I can get another job because I do good work.
Boomer: Why not work harder at this job since you’re here?
Millennial: Tell me what I’m not doing right.
We could go on with this endless loop but here’s the point: If you manage in general, rather than with age specificity, you’re in for endless frustration. Millennials have no memory of prosperity. The Great Recession is their only work-related reality. Boomers work harder to keep their jobs. Millennials want to escape into a work world they control.
Instead of succumbing to frustration and punishing people who don’t share your values, how about developing some strategies to engage people against their will? Manage Boomers and Millennials differently and you’ll work smarter, not harder. More about workforce demographics in my next post.
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