Generational Management:
What’s Good for Gen Y Is Good for All?

The idea of generational management was well expressed in Jamie Smith’s guest post this week. Maybe younger generations need to be managed differently than older workers. But I’m thinking, maybe not. Maybe we’re more alike than we think? (Photo credit Photostock)

For example, Ms. Smith mentions three ways leaders can help Gen Y in the work place:

  • Flexible schedules (why be in an office when you can volunteer, be social, or accomplish something else)
  • Frequent feedback (it’s not helpful to provide yearly feedback when it’s too late to correct the problem)
  • A sense of value in what they are doing

I would argue that all people would benefit from the second two of these management practices. Flexible schedules aren’t things everyone can handle well, and some companies don’t lend themselves to organizing worker face-time in a flexible manner. It’s a great idea, flex-time, and I, myself, love it. But I don’t think we can assume any one generation needs it more or can deal with it better than others.

As to frequent feedback, yes, it’s necessary and it’s good for everyone, not just Gen Y. We’ve known ever since the 1930 Hawthorne studies that frequent feedback encourages people to improve their performance. And just this year a well-documented study of what goes on inside the minds of knowledge workers proves the point again: The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.

People work better when they know you care about them and you’re paying attention to them. That applies to all generations. Maybe Gen Y need it more because they got a lot of it growing up, but the principle of giving good feedback frequently has been around forever as a best management practice.

I’m not saying management uses it enough or in the right ways. No one likes to be micro-managed and that, in fact, does more harm than good. But you get the point. People need to know when they’re doing things right, not just when they need corrections. And, they need to hear from leaders in just the right doses.

The third point in Jamie’s post relates to another universal principle of good leadership: people need to relate what they’re doing on a daily basis to the bigger picture. Why does their work matter? Why bother? A leader must continually communicate to tie task details into the higher purpose and show workers how what they do contributes to building the future.

Yes, I’d say it helps to be informed about Gen Y and know how they have their quirks and differences from Boomers. And I agree with Jamie when she says Gen Y and Boomers are in many ways alike.

I believe that because of their numbers, and their experiences growing up with computers and games, they will have an impact on management practices, i.e., leaders are going to have to do what they should be doing all along.

A colleague over on LinkedIn responds in this way:

In the 21st century, I believe we are moving into a leadership environment that is far less about the power of authority. Instead, leadership is far more oriented to treating people with respect and dignity, which in my view is the ultimate leadership competency of all. ~ Joseph Tigani

I loved Jamie’s guest post and I love hearing from people who are not only in the “trenches,” but who are studying and researching how leadership — good leadership — affects us at work and helps us to be better people. I’d love to hear from you!

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