As a Baby-Boomer – and an early one at that – I was particularly pleased to receive comments recently from two young people, one of whom contributed a glowing review of my book – “Execution to die for” – and the other who had read a recent blog of mine. One definitely belonged to Gen Y because she said so on her web site and I suspect the other one did as well.
I am always coming across articles that tell me how different Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers are from my generation and in some respects they are. When I travel by train into the CBD, I tend to read a book (hard copy) or do a crossword. In contrast most of my Gen X & Y fellow travellers are engrossed in their Smart phones stroking their way through their Facebook family or giving both thumbs an energetic work-out as they fire off posts and text messages. Alternatively they hold very public phone conversations with a confidant on the state of their latest relationship, swearing them to secrecy but omitting to ask the same of the rest of the carriage.
But when it comes to work life and what they want from it and how they wish to be treated by their employer and their managers, I don’t think they want anything more or anything less than their baby-boomer colleagues. In my book, I certainly didn’t see the need to sort the barriers to execution by generation and the same can be said of the counter-measures. Where Gen X and Gen Y do differ from the baby-boom generation is in their lack of acceptance and toleration of poor management practices. If their current employer is found wanting in that respect, they are more likely to change jobs rather than put up with the status quo. Gen X and Gen Y want their jobs to be meaningful and to see and appreciate how they fit with their employer’s strategic purpose and goals. They are better educated, well-versed in the technical aspects of their jobs but less likely to want to learn the lessons of experience from their baby boomer colleagues.
Generally they are better at managing “things” than managing people. It’s not that they don’t know how to manage people but they don’t have time to do both so they focus on “things” because it’s the way they manage “things”, not their leadership qualities, that earns them brownie points and promotion. They are more competitive than their baby-boomer counterparts – they seek promotion and they’re impatient. And the competition is pretty intense.
So here’s the paradox. All three generations want the same things from their employer and from senior management. Sadly, I see no evidence that proves that the standard of people management has risen despite the research, the millions of words, the trainers and the DVD’s that focus on the subject. Management is still predominantly in the hands of the baby boomers and Gen X yet there is an army of employees from all three generations who bemoan the lack of leadership and communication in the organisation for which they work.
Inevitably, the leadership baton will be passed to Gen Y. Will Gen Y raise the overall standard of leadership and address the shortcomings that they see in the baby-boomers and Gen X? Don’t hold your breath! If the work environment continues to become more uncertain, more competitive and more dominated by self-interest, then leaders as opposed to managers will continue to be a rare and valuable breed.