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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

7 Tips for Effective Multigenerational Leadership

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Multigenerational leadership has become a hot topic, sparking discussions on social media platforms like LinkedIn and TikTok—not to mention within office corridors. With Gen Z joining forces with Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, it’s no wonder there's a unique dynamic unfolding.

While Gen-Z was born with an iPad in their hands, Millennials come from a time when sitting in front of a computer was the go-to for getting things done. In contrast, Gen-Xers and Boomers are more likely to pick up the phone for a call (to the frustration of many!).

As a manager, learning to navigate these differences is key to fostering a healthy and collaborative environment. By leveraging the strengths of each generation, from Gen Z’s digital fluency to Boomers’ communication skills, you can definitely increase efficiency within your team. But how to do that? Here’s some expert advice.

What is multigenerational leadership?

The concept of multigenerational leadership thrives on the diverse mix of workers from different generations in the same workplace. Think back to shows like “The Office,” which beautifully highlights this diversity with characters like Stanley, the stoic Boomer, Dwight, the dedicated Gen X assistant, and Kelly and Ryan, the tech-obsessed millennial duo.

Like the fictional Dunder Mifflin branch, workplaces currently can have up to four generations working side-by-side:

  • Boomers: people born between the ’40s and the early ’60s
  • Gen-X: people born between the mid ’60s and the early ’80s
  • Millennials: born between the mid ’80s and the mid-late ’90s
  • Gen-Z: born in the late ’90s

This means that today’s managers have in their team people who could be their parents, or grandparents working alongside colleagues younger than their children. “Multigenerational leadership is exciting and can really move the needle for an organization when it’s done well,” says Eloise Eonnet, career coach and communications expert.

Multigenerational workforce challenges

In a multigenerational workforce, your employees may have diverse preferences, with some prioritizing a traditional 9-to-5 schedule and others seeking more flexible work arrangements. This often could be a challenge.

“Boomers and Gen X feel entitled to 24/7 access to your time, where you work (in office vs. remote) and using tech to micromanage both of those things. Whereas Millennials and Gen Z feel entitled to work/life balance, leveraging tech to work smarter and perform from anywhere around the world,” says Yolanda M. Owens, career coach and corporate recruiting specialist.

Another challenging aspect of the multigenerational workforce is the difference in communication styles. “I’ve noticed that there are communication barriers and friction between generations because each is comfortable with different technologies and vocabulary,” says Eonnet. For instance, most Gen-Zs would know exactly what the expression “slay queen” means, whereas boomers could be confused by it.

How do you lead multigenerational staff effectively?

Effectively managing workers with significant age gaps will require refining your communication skills, adapting your leadership style and even developing new channels for interaction and knowledge exchange between coworkers.

If you find yourself having a hard time dealing with this new reality, here’s how to adapt to a multigenerational workplace in seven steps:

1. Communicate clearly

“Successfully managing teams that are composed of individuals from different age groups requires effective communication,” says Eonnet.

Keep in mind that employees from different generations communicate differently and use distinct vocabulary. While Gen-Zs are experts in memes, new slangs and emojis, this could not be the case for someone of an older generation.

In this scenario, it is important to find a common ground that makes sense to the entire team and that doesn’t exclude anybody when making general communications.

For example, you can opt for a communication style guide or choose a more fun route by creating an office dictionary featuring employees’ most used abbreviations or slangs along with their meanings.

2. Adopt engaging channels

Communication in the workplace isn’t just about how you speak but also about where you speak. “Leaders need to foster communication channels for their teams that work for everyone,” states Owens.

You may have already come across some funny TikTok video featuring Millenials and Gen-Zs complaining about meetings that could have been emails. This is common for people who grew up in a digital era, whereas Boomers and Gen-Xers are more fond of face to face interactions.

Understanding these differences is crucial to find the best way to communicate with your multigenerational team. Use the multiple softwares such as Slack, Chantty, and Microsoft Teams to your advantage and find what works best. And, of course, organize in-person meetings when necessary.

3. Combat stereotypes

When it comes to discussing generational differences, stereotyping is a hard no. Yes, every generation has its own characteristics, mostly impacted by the times they were born into. However, broad generalizations such as “Gen-Zs are lazy” or “Gen-Xers are bleak” are unhelpful and can cloud your judgment.

“Conflict arises between team members because of generational stereotyping: workers tend to assume things about other generations, rather than focus on an individual’s personal views and needs,” notes Eonnet.

Fostering channels where coworkers from different age groups can get to know each other individually is one way of breaking these fixed ideas. Owens suggests the creation of intergenerational mentoring and collaboration programs. “This helps transfer knowledge, builds understanding and effective communication between age groups.”

4. Encourage knowledge transfer

Mentoring programs can also be used to expand the team's skills. Both younger and older generations can benefit from each other’s expertises. “Mentorship between team members will help establish a strong transfer of knowledge,” says Eonnet.

For instance, older generations could stay updated on trends and new technologies through their younger colleagues while offering invaluable experience and advice back.

If your more experienced employees happen to be in the organization for a very long time, they could also offer a deep dive into the company's values and transformations observed throughout the years.

6. Leverage unique talents and skill sets

One of the biggest advantages of having a multigenerational workforce is the diversity of people with unique talents and skill sets.

A good example of this is Millennials and Gen-Zs generally finding it easier to navigate social media, new technologies and its tools. On the other hand, Boomers and Gen-Xers may excel at handling presentations and in-office meetings, skills that younger employees, who started their careers in the remote work world, might find challenging.

As a leader, it is your job to learn how to use each talent more effectively while fostering learning and development.

7. Offer career development opportunities

Remember what we said about stereotypes? As a manager, it’s important to avoid assuming that you know exactly what every generation wants for their professional path. Instead, create a career development plan that contemplates everyone.

“I believe that a multigenerational leadership should ensure that all workers have access to career development and growth opportunities,” says Eonnet.

Such measures can give the employees a bigger sense of satisfaction and prevent conflicts. “When each individual feels supported in their work, they feel less threatened by others, more satisfied in their work, and more open to others’ diverging views and needs.”

Managing younger generations: Is it really difficult?

A constant point of discussion on career-focused platforms like LinkedIn is how hard it is to manage younger generations, especially Gen-Zs. You can find comments about lack of work ethic or entitlement, for example, but is this perception really accurate?

In Owen’s opinion, this conflict reveals a discomfort with change. “Usually when someone says a group is difficult, it means they’ve stopped conducting work their way,” she says.

The idea that younger people are more challenging to manage may also be rooted in stereotypes and expectations established by older employers, often based on traditional rules or their own behavior. Before embracing these assumptions, it's important to self-analyze.

“Every generation says the prior generation is harder to manage. Perception is a concept, not a rule,” Owens says.