What happens when generations don’t share the same values and beliefs about workplace success? Older managers become baffled and confused when what used to work, no longer motivates new workers. In the work I do with teams, I get asked about this frequently.
Business consultant Cam Marston presents insights into managing across the generational divide in Motivating the “What’s in It for Me?” Workforce (2007, John Wiley & Sons).
Now, more than ever, American workers born after 1965 aren’t following in their elders’ footsteps. They have different workplace values and definitions of success.
Most positions of power and responsibility on organizational charts are occupied by baby boomers. So if follows that, today’s corporate management practices still reflect the systems and values of their predecessors, the veterans.
Gen Xers and Millennials therefore present unique challenges for Boomer managers. They aren’t interested in time-honored traditions or “the way things have always been done.” Rather, they’re single-mindedly focused on what it takes to get ahead to reach their perceived career destination.
This group shuns past definitions of success: climbing the company ladder and earning the rewards that come with greater responsibility. The company ladder, in their view, is irrelevant.
Mature workers and Boomers in managerial and leadership positions struggle with these differing values and beliefs, wondering how to motivate their younger colleagues. If promotions, raises and bonuses fail to motivate, then what does the trick?
We can identify several differences in values. The new generation of workers has:
- A work ethic that no longer respects or values 10-hour workdays
- An easily attained competence in new technologies and a facility to master even newer ones with little discomfort
- Tenuous to nonexistent loyalty to any organization
- Changed priorities for lifetime goals achievable by employment
The most significant changes in perspective involve time, technology and loyalty.The most common clash points at work involve generational differences in the definition of work, modes of communications, meetings and learning.
Have you had issues with these differences on your team? What solutions have you found?