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LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT

Managing Multigenerational Teams BY GENEVIEVE BEATTY-TINSAY

In 2000, they began graduating from high school. By 2004, they were emerging from bachelor’s degree programs and began pouring into the workplace. By 2006, they were graduating from business schools and master’s programs, in 2007 from law schools, in 2009 from medical schools and PhD programs. Today these “kids” are launching careers as highly credentialed professionals. They are the newest generation in the workforce, estimated to number approximately 72 million (only 5 million less than the Baby Boomers). However, the economic crisis of 2008 changed the landscape of the workforce, perhaps irrevocably. Beforehand, it was a commonplace to assume that Baby Boomers would soon begin their transition into retirement, but remain in the workforce in some capacity. The Gen X’ers were more than ready to fill the vacancies. The Gen Y’ers looked forward to the prospects of moving up in their careers, testing their skills and acquiring more. But the economy crashed and the opposite occurred. As once fat 401k’s and stock portfolios fizzled into oblivion, the boomers firmly kept their seats, everybody clung desperately to their jobs. Many Traditionalist generations moved from retirement or semi-retirement back into full time positions to compensate for their dwindling retirement accounts. Today we’re facing a multi-generational workplace that is more diverse than ever. This age gap is only going to grow. The Boomers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Generation Y is emerging into the workforce at increasing rates. As a result, effectively managing multigenerational teams in the workplace is quickly becoming a coveted skill in managers, regardless of the size of their organization. To best examine this concept, it’s best to first address what a team is. According to The Discipline of Teams (Harvard Business Review, 1993) by John R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, teams differ from work groups in that the members share a common purpose, goals, and objectives that the team themselves helped to shape and determine and hold a major role in executing. These should be unique to the team specifically and should not be the same as the overall goals or objectives of the department or company. In effective teams, the role and insights of the leader is typically shared and interchangeable due to the varying and complimentary skill sets that exist on a well functioning team. This dynamic creates an environment of individual and mutual accountability, and commitment that is unique to teams. In work groups, the goals and objectives in place are typically the same as the organization’s mission. They tend to work and function individually. In work groups, success and effectiveness is often measured directly by other factors such as financial statements. Fostering and cultivating a functioning and performing team is a hefty order for any manager. Most likely multi generational teams already exist within your organization, which leads to the question, “Why even bother considering generational differences?” Generational issues arise in teams due to an inherent difference in the cognitive schemas of the individuals. The reason that generations are divided and are considered unique and different from one another is the cultural reference points and world views that shaped the times »

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