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How to manage intergenerational politics and build a cohesive workforce

Most Australian firms of any size house three very different generations

– Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) Gen-Xers (born 1964-1979) and Gen-Ys (born 1980 and beyond).

While it is dangerous to over-generalise, each generation has defining tendencies.

These tendencies can play themselves out in a typical workplace and can lead to tensions and disengagement if not managed.

In a typical strategy meeting, for example, cautious Baby Boomers, often in a position of seniority, will want to take more time to make a decision, thinking the issues through in more detail.  Gen Ys will often be impatient for action, wanting to conquer Everest and move onto the next challenge. Gen Xers, often in crucial middle management roles, can find themselves the meat in the sandwich.

When conducting any business activity, particularly that which is strategy or project based, it is important that those leading processes be aware of different generational attitudes and seek to accommodate all points of view without getting bogged down.  The Gen Ys need to be kept engaged and challenged and the Baby Boomers have to be heard and respected.  A clearly communicated strategy and vision is crucial to keep all parties engaged and comfortable with strategic directions.

This requires leadership skills not only in the broader settings, but the ability to inspire and coach staff one-on-one.

As part of this process, picking out and retaining leadership talent, particularly among Generation X, will be crucial to the transition of many companies, as the Baby Boomers begin to retire in large numbers. And, yes, the impatient Gen Ys will be needed to backfill the vacancies created by the newly-promoted Xers!

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