UPFRONT The generation game

New generation “X” and “Y” bosses are expected to be better people managers than their predecessors, according to Avril Henry, human resources specialist and author of Leadership Revelations: An Australian Experience.
Speaking at recent business breakfast in Auckland, Henry advised New Zealand managers to be acutely aware of the different views and values each generation has toward career, loyalty, family, flexibility and work/life balance and treat each accordingly.
While baby boomers tend to be more loyal to an employer, generations X and Y put career path first but respond well to inclusive and collaborative styles of leadership, she said. And while baby boomers often fail to recognise good and bad performance for fear of cultivating tall poppy syndrome or offending, X and Y require regular constructive feedback and are determined to be better bosses than those they have worked under – commanding and returning respect.
Henry concluded that smart leaders should start adopting an inclusive and collaborative leadership style now as Gens X and Y won’t hang about and “would rather be self-employed than work for bad manager”.
But are the generational differencs overstated?
Lester Levy, chief executive of Excelerator, the NZ Leadership Institute says the belief that generations are inherently different is not supported by scientific evidence.
“Popular literature has shaped the view that there are massive differences among different generations. This popular view is already starting to drive workforce strategies in many Australasian organisations.”
But study (The Generational Mirage) commissioned by Hudson and written by Excelerator researchers found that Gen X and Gen Y are more similar than different when it comes to their views on leadership. What differences emerged had more to do with life stages than inter-generational shifts, said Levy.
The study does, however, make good starting point for exploring whether workplace strategies should be tailored for particular generations, says Hudson general manager Peter Harbidge.
“Our observation is that all employees need balance of autonomy and support from leaders, that they need to feel valued and that they are making meaningful contribution to the organisation they’re working for. You just can’t get away from the strong link between how teams perform and the leadership provided.”

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