WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE A YOUNG MANAGER An article written by Dr. Marcelle Harran and Dr. Ajith Kumar published on
Khaleej Times, July 2nd, 2016, Weekend Edition Work:Life section, Page 12 Just taken over a team where everyone is much older than you? Here's how you tackle the delicate issue. You've just been promoted, and as Generation-Xer, it's about time! As an Xer, you know your aims and goals would rather manage your own time and solve your own problems than have them decided by a supervisor. So here's your chance to manage your own team. But… how do you manage a team where everyone is much older than you? An age-mix spread in the workplace is becoming the norm today, with trends shifting towards alter retirements. People are increasingly happy to continue working past the traditional retirement age of 60, resulting in a rather complex blend of generations in the workplace. Today, four different generations could share the same workplace. The Silents, born in 1920s-1940s (71 and up), the Baby Boomers, born 1945-1964 (mid 50s to 70s), Generation-Xers, born 1961 to 1981 (mid-30s to mid-50s) and the Millennials or Generation Y-born 1980s-2000 (often the newest workers, aged 29-mid-30s). Each generational group has distinctive work and life backgrounds, experiences and expectations. Generation-Xers are now increasingly moving into positions of power and influence, and are having to supervise and manage members of older and younger generations. As the values of these generations are often at odds, there is bound to be some tension and strain as different age group work together. So, having a better understanding of other generations' values can ensure that your new working environment is more productive, inclusive and happy. Here are few lessons that Baby Boomers and Generation-Xers can learn from each other. LESSONS FROM BABY BOOMERS: Tough Periods: They have experienced economic cycles, so have a long-range view of trends Loyalty: They remain committed to their company through good and bad times, so very reliable Experience: They possess historical memory from corporate policies and politics to industry knowledge, so are able to share their knowledge Interpersonal Skills: They possess strong interpersonal association, so they usually value common courtesy and team play Regrets: They have experienced career failures, so can assist and help steer colleagues through their professional career paths. Independence: They know how to depend on themselves, so can teach other generations the importance of not relying on others to do things for them LESSONS FROM GEN-X: New Technology: They have knowledge of many devices with bits and bytes, so can share their technical knowledge Diversity: They come from diverse and different backgrounds, so can use their wider world vision to assist older workers to adapt to a changing paradigm Job-Hopping: They embrace career change as fulfilling and energizing, so can challenge zones of comfort to encourage change Risk Taking: They possess entrepreneurial flair and are out-of-the-box thinkers, so can challenge older generations who have avoided risks and respected corporate structures their entire working life. After all, the 21st century demands new and creative ways of thinking Balancing Work-Life Issues: They strive of work-life balance, and this balanced attitudes can transform the do-or-die attitudes of older colleagues Fulfilling Dreams: They prioritize their dreams, and they encourage older generations to embrace their life opportunities and fulfill their dreams too As companies increasingly recognize that the changing demographics of the working environment affect company morale and productivity, some companies have incorporated inter-generational personnel training programmes to understand how different generation encounter and interrelate with each other. Companies are also realizing the importance of addressing not only the needs of older working generations but the needs of incoming generations as well as matching people with their jobs to ensure that they are continuously challenged. Finally, companies are also starting to understand the importance of focusing on not only workplace accomplishments but also accommodating and channeling the working and learning styles of various generations to increase production and job satisfaction. So as a Generation-Xer in your new position, knowing a little about each generation will help you understand how you can manage your older team of colleagues productively and successfully. You may choose to be more independent and enjoy working alone, however, for your team, interdependence is important, so you will need to interact more closely with your team and share concerns and procedures recurrently. If you enjoy managing, but not monitoring, you will definitely prefer being hands-off and low face-time manager. But to bridge this managing style, you will need to provide clear instructions of requirements as your team may not be able to ad-lib or improvise according to your expectations. It may be a good idea to research the importance of praise to motivate teams, as praising your team's success will inspire and encourage their future efforts. In addition, by identifying their unique talents and strengths, you can look for ways to incorporate their opinions and channel their aptitudes. TEN TIPS TO HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR OLDER TEAM MEMBERS: Throw out all your assumptions: Don't stereotype and treat older team members the same as any other team member. Don't be bossy: They know you're the boss, so be a good leader rather than giving the impression that you know more than everyone else. Communicate continuously: Be very clear about your expectations and directions but also understand your team's requirements and needs. Value their experience: Involve them in decision-making, take their perspectives, and experience into consideration. Be respectful: treat each employee as an expert. Ask where you can help them and they can help you. Train them: Older team members need just as much training than younger workers, and they are just receptive as their younger peers. Use them as mentors: They have rich experience and company knowledge, so let them coach and support younger team members. Motivate them: Managers need to inspire their teams, but remember, older workers often have different motivational needs than younger team members. Use collaboration: Create a productive work environment by encouraging collaboration to draw on the range of experiences and expertise within your team. Be credible: Be open and ensure your actions demonstrate your integrity.