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Managing the "Emotional Intelligence Respect" 1/14/2011
Across Generations
By: Dr. Nick Dayan

Get Ready! Get Set! RETIRE! Retirement has traditionally been time to spend the rest of your life living in a stress free, carefree environment. And this was the thought process for many individuals who were born between 1947 and 1964, otherwise known as “The Baby-Boomers”. Beginning this year, 2011, every few minutes a person will be eligible to retire. Within the next five to 10 years, over 80 million Baby-Boomers are scheduled to retire from the workforce, or will they?

Studies show that as many as sixty percent of all baby-boomers have been either unable to save financially for retirement or simply failed to do it. This means that many of these individuals may have to remain in the workforce well into their 70’s and 80’s.

And whom are they going to be “bumping” up against in order to secure employment? Mostly, it will be the Generation Y workers. These are made up of the children of the Baby Boomers and defined as those individuals born between 1980 and 1995. Although the number of individuals entering the workforce are not as staggering as the “boomers”, it is still enough to cause widespread concern as to not only who will employ all of these but individuals, but are managers today prepared to work with cross generational work ethics. More importantly, will managers have the emotional ability to maintain cross cultural respect in this environment?

Driving this concern is the fact that there are a number of generations already in the workforce that actually have several different views on authority. Keep in mind though, that the Generation X workers are already in the workplace and are trying daily to make significant changes to accommodate their own style and desires.

Identifying these generations, and determining ways to motivate and manage them is slowly becoming a huge concern for many businesses. But the key to a successful generational integration is the ability to understand emotional intelligence for respect.

Emotional intelligence refers to an ability to recognize the meanings of emotion and their relationships with people and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. Emotional intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them. However, adding the respect factor in order to manage emotional intelligence within the workforce demands the need to understand how generations are going to continue to affect our corporate citizenship status.

With the Baby Boomers generation, things such as terrorism, pollution, child abductions and pessimism are not part of their vocabulary. They came of age in the optimistic sixties and seventies and believe in growth, change and expansion.

The Boomers tend to pursue promotion by working long hours and demonstrating loyalty and for some, a degree of cunning, hardcore business ruthlessness.

Their vast numbers made Boomers competitive in every aspect of their lives, although they’re mellowing as they enter their 50s and 60s. They believe anything is possible and want the corner office, fancy title and big salary and many do not plan to retire in full. While respecting authority, Boomers prefer to be viewed and treated as equals.

Many Sociologists refer to the small group Generation X as the “baby bust” because so few children were born between 1964 and 1979. The older Boomers may well have entered their prime childbearing years during this decade, but the birth control pill and women delaying childbearing until their ‘30s caused a dramatic drop in the birth rate throughout the Western world. This small generation finds itself wedged between two huge demographic bulges and feels somewhat overlooked, but their lack of numbers has worked in their favor in many aspects of their life.

These are the children of workaholic parents, the child-care generation who grew up to be self-reliant, individualistic and determined to maintain a work-life balance. They ’ve seen their parents work long hours and devote themselves to one company only to be downsized.

As a result Gen X’rs are mistrustful of corporations and are not loyal to any one company. If their job isn’t taking them where they want to go, they’ll move on. On the plus side, they embrace change, particularly with respect to technology -- they are the stars of both the volatile dot com companies and the more stable Silicon Valley startups. Generation X likes to live on the edge and is outcome-focused, expecting specific constructive feedback on their performance.

Generation Y or the “Echo Generation”, are the children of the Boomers and echo their impact on society. The years between 1980 and 1995 is when the great majority of Baby Boomers finally settled down and turned their attention to creating their own mini-boom. The Gen Y world has always included computers, the internet, CDs, DVDs, cellular phones and digital cameras. Thinking digitally is second nature to this group. They are more numerous, more affluent, more technologically-savvy, better educated and more ethnically diverse than any previous generation.

Rather than process or outcome focused, these individuals focus on what can be accessed along the way.

While Generation Y will wield a great deal of power, in part due to its sheer numbers, organizations must still be careful to retain and motivate their older employees. The fact is that despite the approximately 5.6 million Echoes about to flood the market, there are still not enough of them to fill the void left by those Boomers wanting and trying to leave the workforce. To effectively manage all three groups, changes are needed in corporate offerings, corporate culture and management style.

Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, and that includes benefits packages.

Baby Boomers are interested in retirement options, salaries and bonuses, stock options, investments and medical coverage. A 2000 survey by Transamerica Life Companies found that 79 percent of Boomers would like to retire before the age of 65 if they can manage it financially.

Generation X and Y are more interested in child and elder care, as well as career development volunteer opportunities and any chance to learn new technologies.

Attaining that balance is what drives these two generations and, when the time comes, they’ll spend more time with their children – especially the fathers.

Like any other group, health issues will become more of a concern as Gen X and Gen Y age, as will stress management. Generation Y holds the dubious distinction of being the first generation in history to be less healthy than its parents.

Younger generations have spent a majority of their young life having been taken care of by electronic means. To make matters worse, Generation Y is the first generation of young people to have experienced terrorism close to home. Unlike their under-supervised Gen X cousins, the Echoes have been micro-managed by their parents, enrolled in time-intensive before and afterschool activities and bound to the technological apron strings of pagers and cell phones.

So what does it take to motivate these generations into a productive work environment? It has been observed in many work place settings that conflict avoidance would be the best way to manage such a diverse workgroup. Managers and supervisors don’t know or understand how they can obtain the desired outcome without creating a potentially hostile situation. So turning a “Blind Eye” easily becomes the norm.

But what if you took a few minutes to identify factors that relate specifically to not only a personality, but to a whole generation? This in itself could open the lines of communication and acknowledgement that different people need different incentives.

The old adage that success will come through long hours and corporate loyalty is what drives most Boomers. Although Gen X and Gen Y think they understand the concept of hard work, it may not be what they consider conducive of a good lifestyle.

Working styles that differ with each generation cause frustration on all sides as older workers may view their young counterparts as incompetent, while the younger workers will see Boomers as overachievers. Managers who pressure younger workers to work long hours could see their absentee rates soar and retention rates plummet.

Older managers, who are used to competing for every job, won’t understand when Gen X’rs and Y’rs start turning down management positions in favor of a more balanced lifestyle. The smart manager will understand and respect these different ways of working and accommodate them.

So does your management style affect the work habits of the generations? Sure it does!

Finding a balance between providing a work environment that accesses the genius of Generation X and Y, yet doesn’t alienate current staff who enjoy the existing work environment will remain a test for managers. Tomorrow’s workers will desire a move from function-based work to project-centred work.

Project-centered work is, however, suited to all three working style in that it’s collaborative, focuses on each individual’s particular talents and allows for flexible working styles. It’s non-hierarchal, which suits the younger worker and encourages communication, which meets corporate goals of unifying the workforce.

It is your responsibility as a manger to move an individual from just doing a job to challenge and awaken the “genius” in any employee. Know that an individual is hired for his or her talents, abilities, education, experience, personality and what he or she can potentially contribute to a company. Give them their responsibilities, provide them with the task criteria and just let them get on with it. More and more businesses are evaluating performance on achieving mutually established business objectives. How those objectives are met should be up to the employee, as long as they periodically update their manager. That can now be done through conference calls, email, cell phones or text messaging.

A word of caution, don’t try to become an expert and feel that you can assimilate yourself into another generations “world”. You Can’t! This may be viewed as an outsider trying to “become one of them”. And in doing so you have not only enhanced an alienation process with these individuals, but you may have caused them to begin seeking employment at a company where their generation is totally understood, and respected.

Employers are continuously trying to develop new ways of attracting, retaining and supporting the multigenerational corporate citizens. If you are one of these employers, take the time to try and understand most aspects governing a person’s emotional intelligence based on their peer culture groups. Thus, your goal as a supervisor is to focus on understanding the respect factor and in which part of the generation society an individual belongs.

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