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Managing Multiple Generations: Issues, Problems and Language

Managing Multiple Generations: Issues, Problems and Language

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By James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for 
In Cyber Defense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

In the world of cyber defenders, we often see multiple generations working in the same office. We see the Millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers who have seniority and management skills. However, has the world changed when it comes to managing a multiple-generation organization?

Dan Coates is an authority on marketing and research about youth and the millennial market. At the recent 2017 SHOT Show’s Executive Management Seminar, he discussed how various generations view management.

His ideas can help improve management skills in many areas. The need for better management is critical as the government tries to hire more cyber security personnel.

What Makes Generations Unique?

Coates looked at what makes the generations unique. What made Millennials unique was technology. It was their top concern, twice as important as that of Gen Xers. Millennials want IT upgrades and better hardware and software.

Boomers rated the work ethic as the number one concern among those factors that made their generation unique. After all, who are today’s managers?

Coates’ research found Millennials’ second top focus was music and culture. For Gen Xers, it was work ethics, while Boomers cited respect.

With this diversity of focus among different generations, there is the potential for workplace issues. That focus could cause Millennials to perceive older workers as too much like “stuffed shirts,” while Millennials are seen as undisciplined by Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Managers should give consideration to each generation’s unique qualities as they deal with different generations in the workplace. Training and managing expectations might calm workplace issues before they become problems that interfere with productivity.

Each Generation Has Its Own World Views

Coates explained that each generation has a unique experience and point of view. Their generational characteristics shape the way they view the world.

To effectively communicate with employees, managers should consider the generation they address. Thinking of generation communications as three different languages could help improve workplace communication.

Tips for Working with Generation Xers

  • Show how the discourse affects them. What is the impact on them?
  • Focus on skills development. Explain how they can develop and grow.
  • Show proof of what you’re discussing. Give examples of improvements that can be made and provide websites.
  • Keep it concise. Make the bottom line simple, straightforward and to the point.

Tips for Working with Millennials

  • Emphasize “the cause” first; they want to make an impact on the world. The military calls this “mission focus.”
  • Be highly visual. Millennials are a visually driven group and prefer images over text.
  • Think online and offline. Digital natives need digital points in addition to in-person reinforcement, because they live online and offline simultaneously.
  • Use peer influence. Give examples of peer successes.

Examine the Possible Solutions

Many of these tips and comments have been raised in executive management seminars and MBA courses, but Dan Coates separates them into generational targeting. If your office is having personnel issues, check to see if they are multi-generational in nature and try some of these tips. The solution of workplace problems may lie in dissecting the players by generation and looking for the solution as a targeted segment.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in South Korea, supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 43rd scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.

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James Lint James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has ... learn more