Leaders, Team Members Were Not Raised in Your House
A colleague recently texted me a link to an article from Fortune Magazine. The article was titled "Gen Z is at the Top of Bosses’ Firing List Because They Think They’re the Most Difficult Generation to Work With." When I saw the title, I smiled and recalled how history just repeats itself over and over. It’s as predictable as the sunrise and sunset. Once again, older generations think the youngest generation is entitled or hard to work with.
It was the Baby Boomers who went to work with bell-bottom pants, hair all the way down to their lower back, and women who went to work with flowers in their hair. Every generation wants the newest generation to cherish and value the same things they did. My father, who is 90 years old, once said, “Son, music gets no better than Frank Sinatra.” Sorry, I beg to differ, Dad; try Journey, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and REO Speedwagon!
During my leadership webinars and classes, I often read an excerpt from a larger article about how a leadership consultant responded to a frustrated leader’s question concerning a problem employee. "I just hired a twenty-something to work in my department. He is a whiz on the computer but a challenge to manage. How do you deal with younger employees who think they know everything? Signed, DON’T TRUST ANYONE UNDER 30!" The leadership consultant responded, "Can you look past the body piercings of a Generation X?" (Now, how many of you thought I was talking about Generation Y or Z? You see, this question came from an article in 2007). History just repeats itself over and over. Oh yes, Generation Xers pushed the envelope with Baby Boomers. I then continue with the response from the consultant: "Generation Xers have an understanding of computers and the internet that most Boomers will never have. Take advantage of that! Instead of telling him how to do the task, tell him what you want and let him deliver the results. He’s more apt to show you a shortcut."
Generation Z has become a dirty word in today's society. Older leaders want a free pass on working with them. They love to criticize this generation.
Let me be frank, as I have been known to do often with leaders. Leaders, you need to be intentional with the younger folks. You cannot be an armchair coach and just sit back and say, "They just don’t get it." You need to be on the field, blowing the whistle, showing them again and again, and giving them feedback. The younger generation wants to know why. They are people like you and me. They are not just another breed. They want work that matters. This is called being a part of the human race. We all have a need to do work that matters. Retirees tell me the exact same thing. Longer-tenured leaders, ask your younger generational employees what motivates them. Ask what you can do as a leader to make coming to work a better place to be. Ask if you are involving them enough. Ask how you can play a role in their growth and development. How about empowering these younger team members to make more decisions on their own and support them when they make a mistake, instead of saying, “It’s hard to find good people these days.”
However, I run into longer-tenured leaders every day who want to impose their generational value system on others, based on how they were raised, but then have the expectation that these others are going to work faster, harder, and smarter.
Leaders of all generations, keep in mind that your team members have not been raised in your house. Do you know what the key to working with all generations happens to be? Applying the fundamentals of leadership. Leaders are MADE, not born!
The Perfect Storm: 5 Generations in the Workplace is one of my most popular presentations. I welcome the opportunity to discuss how I can help your leaders grow their team, themselves, and profits.