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Managing Multiple Generations – What a Crock!

Managing Multiple Generations – What a Crock!

I am probably going to get a lot of heat for this post, but I am okay with that. I am a GenX’er, so society tells me I am supposed to challenge authority and be generally disagreeable so maybe I am just being me!

There are thousands of books, consultants, courses and conferences on how to effectively manage across multiple generations in the workplace. Companies have been spending over a decade and millions of dollars trying to find the secret sauce to managing millennials. Now, while we have not solved the millennial code, we have a new generation that seems to be perplexing leadership and management thinkers even more. What a colossal waste of money!!!!

We do find ourselves in a very unique business environment in that we have at least four (some say five) generations in the work force currently. From Boomers (nearing retirement) to Gen Z (just getting started), managers can have teams that range from their 20s into their 80s.

I do acknowledge that there are certain differences between the generations, but that has always been the case. Go back and read Aristotle, Socrates or any other ancient philosophers/thinkers and you will see some variation on the theme that young people are impossible, and they are going to ruin the world. This is not new, we are just giving it a different name and trying to create a snake oil business out of it.

At a most basic level, I believe that if someone shares your corporate values and you are able to provide them with meaningful work, pay them fairly, appreciate them, recognize them for their individuality and contribution and show them a path to grow, they will become an outstanding member of your team, no matter what generation (which is just an artificial human construct anyways) they were born into.

The secret sauce to this approach is the application of John Maxwell’s (although I am not sure if he is the originator, he is the one that I most often hear credited for it) Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule says treat people how YOU would like to be treated, which is good, but not always effective. The Platinum Rule says treat other people how THEY would like to be treated.

Get to know your people, their goals, dreams, motivations, and aspirations. For those that fit your company’s values, co-create a career plan that will speak to them as individuals and help your organization achieve its goals.  

I understand that desire to have four simple formulas that you can use to manage all the member of your team. However, wishing it was so does not make it reality. I wish I could fly, but I know if I jump off a building, I am not going to like the results.

If you want to effectively manage multiple generations, stop managing generations and start managing people!