It’s crucial for managers to learn to communicate across generations
The first thing one needs to realize once they move to a management role is this:
Your job has changed! Drastically.
Many people happily take on the title of ‘manager’ while assuming that most of what they will do and be responsible for on a day-to-day basis won’t be all that different, says MacKenzie Kyle, a management consultant and author of The Performance Principle: A Practical Guide to Understanding Motivation in the Modern Workplace. Given that there is limited time each day, and that management responsibilities are their own full-time job, this can result in significant personal stress, working excessive hours as the person attempts to do two jobs, and feeling like he or she has to ‘waste’ time on activities like communication and reporting, which doesn’t produce the same immediate and obvious results as ‘production’ work.
But, as a manager, it is now a big part of your daily job to effectively facilitate the flow of information. So don’t expect that as a manager you’ll get to avoid those regular status meetings or email updates; instead, you’ll be the driving force behind them.
“You are moving to a role that includes a significant component of communication,” says Kyle.
And that means communicating with different personalities, styles, and generations. That in itself is another great challenge all new managers must master. Especially for Millennials trying to communicate and report up across generations, specifically with baby boomers.
In fact, reporting challenges between generations in the workplace are an offshoot of the Grand Communication Canyon between Baby Boomers and Millennials, says Chris Butsch, author of The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness, a positive psychology book for young people driven by humor, science, and stories from Millennials around the world. So what’s driving these generations apart? Well, they both want something the other isn’t providing.
Millennials want feedback.
“I’m often asked why we seem to need feedback at every turn, and the answer is quite simple: this is the system we’re used to,” says Butsch. “We’re the most educated generation in America’s history; with over 50% of us holding college degrees. That means more than any generation before us, we’ve spent more time in the education system receiving precise feedback on everything. Even in college, which prepares us for work, we received a percentage score on every deliverable: Here’s what you did right, here’s where you screwed up, 89%, B+.”
But baby boomers are industrious and often bottom-line driven, says Butsch. So if you are a new manager communicating with a baby boomer follow these guidelines from Butsch when managing the flow of communication in the workplace:
Imagine this scenario: Yesterday morning, your client asked for something you have no experience in. This afternoon the manager who you report to asks this:
Haven’t heard from XYZ client in a week- how are things going?
BAD REPORT: Yesterday morning they asked for something I don’t know much about, so I’m kinda stuck. Could you help?
This response creates more questions and more work – baby boomers – often senior managers in today’s corporate hierarchy, hate this. Instead, impress them by showing how much work you’ve already done, covering the three bases above:
GOOD REPORT: (1) Things are well and we’re speeding towards go-live by Monday EOD. I’ve completed 5 of the 7 tasks this week. (2) However, they’ve asked for recommendations for ideal CRM software, and (3) while I’ve thoroughly researched the top 4 options (Pipedrive, Salesforce, Insightly, and Zoho), I don’t feel qualified to make a recommendation without experience. Could you connect me with someone who might have experience in this area?
The latter response tells them things are going well, you’re on schedule, and you specify precisely where you need help.
The biggest thing to remember when communicating as a manager, whether it’s with direct reports, or to senior leaders is this, says Butsch: Stop treating everyone the same.
Butsch references a 75-year-long Harvard study that found the No. 1 indicator of life satisfaction is the quality of our relationships. If you build relationships with the people around you, you’re also building trust, likability, and efficiency between you.
“Building a working relationship doesn’t necessarily mean being buddy-buddy with everyone; it means understanding them,” says Butsch.
How can new managers understand the many different personalities and work styles across generations in the workplace? Start by making mental baseball cards, says Butsch. Like this:
Danielle (hospital director)
Likes: directness, short meetings, short emails
Hates: getting lost in details, anyone who’s late
Kyle (scheduling software analyst)
Likes: positive feedback, 1-1 attention, clear walkthroughs
Hates: feeling lost, going too long without feedback
So if communicating with Danielle and Kyle, Butsch would spend an hour walking Kyle through a new workflow, then fire Danielle a 1-sentence email letting her know that the scheduling software is on track.
As you build these relationships, and start to understand each person’s own unique style – and quirks – you’ll simply enjoy working with more people, and will also build trust with them, meaning you’ll feel more comfortable asking for favors or support in times of need, adds Butsch.
The reality of the job of manager is often different than expectations, and a large number of people don’t find the activities of being a manager – all the communication, supporting other people to do the actual work while dealing with many of their problems, rewarding, says Kyle. But the manager’s role is to coordinate and support the production work (not to do it) and this requires significant time spent simply communicating with the members of the team. Learning how to communicate successfully with different personalities and across generations is a big factor in one’s success as a manager.
Are you ready to make that change? Then you’re ready to succeed as a first-time manager.
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