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Managers Can Mend Intergenerational Miscommunication

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Old 08-16-2010, 11:52 AM
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Default Managers Can Mend Intergenerational Miscommunication

Business and human resource professionals have reported intergenerational miscommunication remains a thorny issue in the workplace. As a manager, part of your job is mediating these issues. Here are some tips on how to recognize generational communication styles and potential conflicts and respond appropriately.
Understand the Generational Breakdown
Four distinct generations coexist in today's workplace: the Silent Generation (born 1925 to 1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born 1965 to 1977) and Generation Y (born 1978 to 1989).
It is important to recognize that historical events, politics and technology ultimately shape each generation's concept of work ethics, teamwork and company loyalty. Understanding their influence is critical to managing intergenerational communication.
Develop and Nurture Relationships
Carolyn Martin, PhD, principal for Rainmakerthinking, recommends those responsible for younger employees "manage according to output, not by hours put in." Younger people are driven by building s****s and are interested in taking on more responsibility. However, as with any less-experienced person, managers will need to be more actively involved and take on a coaching/mentorship role.
When it comes to younger employees, building meaningful relationships and providing ongoing feedback will aid in retention and reinforce organizational goals. These relationships also help individuals build strong interpersonal communication s****s and reduce the odds of miscommunication occurring.
Clearly Define Company Goals and Objectives
Each employee has his own unique way of accomplishing a given task, regardless of generation. Reinforcing the desired outcome of any short- or long-term project will help define parameters and put individuals in position to succeed. Actively managing employees by providing ongoing support and being a resource will help create more efficient workers. It is important to recognize that Generations X and Y request more feedback from managers and peers on a regular basis.
Follow Up with Feedback Regularly
"Managers should provide feedback for improvement whenever their young staffers need it," says Martin. "For some young workers who are new to an organization, a project or a task, or who need more direct guidance and support, that may mean once an hour or once a day. For others, it may mean once a week."
"However, we recommend that every manager offer coaching-style feedback -- here's what went right, here's what went wrong, here's what I want you to do next -- to their young direct report at least once a week," she adds. "Managers need to review the last week's game plan and lay out the next week's so time is not wasted and their people have the resources they need to do their best work the next week. Give young workers the psychological security of knowing what's expected daily or weekly, and you'll create a partnership of shared goals that will keep their productivity soaring."
Cultivate Company Values
Incorporating your company goals into how work gets done is essential to cultivating effective communication. For example, many managers express frustration that younger coworkers use instant messaging (IM) or email to address matters that should be dealt with in person.
In this case, managers need to set some ground rules about how and when email and IM are to be used and provide ongoing feedback to coach coworkers through specific situations. Reinforcing company expectations of standard protocols will help provide consistency and strengthen employees' understanding of how their behavior is tied in to company goals.

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