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A manager is a person who is normally in charge of an organization's duties, personnel, and events and ensuring that all of the company's activities proceed as scheduled (Schaper, Volery, Weber, & Gibson, 2014). The boss usually establishes corporate priorities and guarantees that everyone strives against those goals (Daley, 2012). Managing people can be stressful because a manager must contend with gaps in thoughts and views. The growing disparities were due to socioeconomic disparities, educational level inequalities, and even generational differences. Currently, the differences in mindsets of the people born in different eras are a major source of discord as they have different approaches to situations (Costanza, Badger, Fraser, Severt, & Gade, 2012). The friction between the groups is further aggravated by the fact that the older people may be more inclined to the manual system of handling work while the younger ones are more technologically advanced. These differences in mentality adversely affect the interactions between these people and a harmonious workplace is not attained. (Lyons, & Kuron, 2014) It is therefore worth studying generational differences in the workplace, how managers respond to the issues, why they respond in the said manner and give recommendations about how the responses may be improved.
Generational differences refer to the differences based on the age group a person was born in. There are five distinct generations in the workplace. Traditionalists, which comprise of people born before 1946. The baby boomers who comprise of people born between 1946 and 1964, Gen X born between 1965 and 1976, Millennials born between 1977 and 1997 and lastly Gen 2020 which comprise of people born after 1997 (Cahill, & Sedrak, 2012).
In a typical company setting, these five generations are represented in their operations. The major cause is delayed retirement ultimately making the older people last longer in a particular workplace than they should (Wiedmer, 2015). It is impartial to note that, due to the differences in the periods and environments where these people were born, their characters are very different (Schullery, 2013). Further, the various groups are proficient in different skills, which mean that some may be opposed to adjusting their work procedure to others deemed more efficient. The overall result is increased friction due to the lack of understanding and accommodation of other people’s differences. For instance, most senior accountants may be Baby Boomers or people belonging to Gen X. The education obtained by these people was mostly manual, and these people prefer doing their calculations and summaries on a manual basis (Deyoe, & Fox, 2012). Millennials, on the other hand, are more technologically advanced as the use of computers and technology was well incorporated into their education systems (Verschoor, 2013). For similar accountants, they may be more inclined to use accounting software such as QuickBooks as opposed to manually conducting their operations. The two groups working in the same company will automatically have differences from the onset due to their different preferences.
Humans are notorious for stereotyping people without considering the fact that people are different and have individual characters (Lester, Standifer, Schultz, & Windsor, 2012). For instance, baby boomers are considered as the most competitive generation who believe in equity and togetherness (Parment, 2013). People belonging to generation X have independent thinking as well as skepticism as their primary attributes (Wiedmer, 2015). Millennials are considered to be the most technologically advanced group who support teamwork while the traditionalists are the non-retiring reserved type (Desy, Reed, & Wolanskyj, 2017). Managers have the responsibility of managing these different groups of people and must take care not to let the stereotyping get to them since it may influence their decision-making.
How Managers are Responding to the Issue
Managers are usually aware of the increased generational tension and the fact that employees from different generations may have problems and fail to get along well with others (Cogin, 2012). It is imperative for the said managers to note the differences in the workplace and the factors which aggravate them to devise strategies which will help reduce the effects.
One of the ways through which managers can assist in resolving the issues associated with generational differences is through the critical studying of the different employees(Rego, Sousa, Marques, & Cunha, 2012). It is widely known that the various groups want different things out of their employment. Once a manager knows the diverse needs of the different people, he can be able to manage them accordingly. For instance, the aim of being in a particular workplace for Gen 2020 may be to advance in their career thus may strive to learn as much diverse information as possible. A traditionalist may have no interest in developing their career further but may only have interest in retaining their position in the company. Once a manager learns the different needs of the employees, he can be able to address them accordingly.
Many managers foster team building activities which go a long way in enabling people to befriend and appreciate each other (Dyer, & Dyer, 2013). Team building activities are conducted outdoors and may include outings and games as well as getting past extracurricular activities together. Once people engage in such activities together, they tend to relieve the tension between themselves and the friendships formed enables them to get to know more about each other (Dyer, & Dyer, 2013). The more people get to know each other; the more their appreciate their differences and diversity. Ultimately, a more harmonious workplace is achieved.
Many managers are also increasingly creating opportunities which foster cross generational mentorship (Marcinkus Murphy, 2012). This strategy mostly involves the pairing of young workers with older ones in the carrying out of some projects and activities. Younger employees, namely the Millennials and Gen 2020 grew up in a technologically advanced era in relation to their older counterparts. Working on projects together enables these young employees to teach the older ones about computer operations and make them more technologically advanced (Virick, & Greer, 2012). Consequently, the more aged employees are more knowledgeable in terms of company operations and overall institutional knowledge. The diversity shared puts all the staff at par, and the company is at a better position of excelling further.
A human resource manager at Mastercard, Ron Garrow is an example of an individual who greatly benefitted from a reciprocal mentoring program which was implemented at his place of work. Garrow knew very little about technology though his position required him to have considerable knowledge of how to adequately run most computers generated activities. A young 24-year avid social media user was assigned to be a tutor and trained Garrow about how to effectively use social media accounts to his advantage as well as make the most out of some accounts such as linked in (Shellenbarger, 2017). Gallow confessed that the interactions with Rebecca helped reshape his thinking and managed to give him profound insights about the changes and opportunities imminent in the industry. Ultimately, he was able to develop expertise in his social space, and he currently sets aside enough time to operate his social media accounts. Rebecca, on the other hand, developed her communication skills and Gallow also offered professional counsel who helped her further advance her knowledge in the workplace. Currently, Mastercard offers this program on a regular basis, and more people are increasingly accepting and willing to partake in the program (Shellenbarger, 2017).
Managers are also continuously assessing employees and offering them things that matter. A good example is the Vox Mobile which understands the different generations and has devised ways which will ensure that each group gets what they require (Knight, 2017). For instance, Gen 2020 are more active and find the need to be associated with particular brands. For this reason, these people are better placed in the marketing department whereby they can not only obtain opportunities to feature in advertisements but also materials that matter such as branded t-shirts, caps and backpacks. Traditionalists and Baby boomers rarely care about these things and can thus be more motivated by pension programs as well as health insurance policies. Vox mobile provides these incentives in accordance to the specific needs, and by so doing, significant achievement has continued to occur (Knight, 2017).
Maintaining a supportive attitude is another measure undertaken by managers to overcome generational differences (Waters, Sevick Bortree, & TJ Tindall, 2013). It is imperative to note that the differences in age also results in more differences such as diversified speed in the carrying out of some activities as well as the perfection of the said work. For instance, millennials have a technological advantage over older groups and can, therefore, carry out technical tasks both faster and with more precision. In a situation where typing work is required, it would be unfair to judge the two groups based on who finishes his work first and more accurately. Even in the events where a traditionalist has been trained to type and perform other computer operations, they are bound to be relatively slow and more inaccurate. Good managers understand this and may prefer to give such works to Millennials and allocate more manual work to the older groups (Weinbaum, Girven, & Oberholtzer, 2016). When one visits big offices in companies and organizations, young people are mostly the ones assigned jobs such as secretaries and receptionists. Very rarely does one find old secretaries due to the nature of their work description. This allocation means that managers are very considerate of the tasks allocated and knows that such jobs cannot suit older generations.
In as much as organizations take the issue of generational differences seriously and always ensures that they are handled promptly, there are ways through which the above issues can be improved. The first step is by developing a well-defined system whereby the employees perform distinct roles without interfering with each other's work (Littlejohn, Milligan, & Margaryan, 2012). For instance, in an accounting scenario, the process can be broken down into stages, and different groups allocated various stages of the task by their generational stage. The first step of obtaining data is through data entry. Millennials can best handle this step in relation to any other group (Goerg, Jin, Remy, & Koehler, 2015). Once the data has been filled, the copies can then be distributed as paper to the more experienced accountants who then proceed to carry out the final financial analysis. This method may be hectic and bring about considerable confusion, but with time it can put everyone at ease.
Managers can also ensure that specific roles are given to specific people belonging to particular generational groups in line with ensuring proper operations take place (Kerzner, 2013). It is evident that the coming generations are more learned and have better education in comparison with the older people. That notwithstanding, traditionalists and baby boomers have more expertise and wisdom required to run the business accordingly. Managers can give younger fresh minds higher positions in the companies to gear the business in the right direction using the current trends, but it should not overlook the other groups. The young managers can seek advice from these people, and the ultimate result would be a higher performing company.
It is evident that generational differences are significant concerns that affect many, if not all businesses. The differences in mentality and characters end up causing friction as each group of people believe their ways of operations to be the best. There are currently five generations, which are found in a typical work environment, and they range from the old group known as traditionalists to the younger group known as Gen 2020. It is widely known that the older generations may dismiss the opinions of the younger ones on the basis that they are too young hence not knowledgeable while the younger people end up finding the views of, the older people as being relatively backward thus not taking them seriously. Managers face the challenge of handling the issues diligently and through the fostering of mentorship programs, team building as well as maintaining a supportive attitude, they have managed to keep workplace sanity. Generational differences are a reality, but through proper management, it has duly been contained.
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