Gen Y: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

In a rousing presentation this summer at ILTA09, Jason Ryan Dorsey gave us a terrific overview of how the presence of as many as four generations in the workplace at once can lead to tensions or opportunities, depending on the quality of their management. The generational differences he described in his talk were quite striking. For example, he contrasted the boomer style (i.e., just leave me alone to get my job done) with the Gen Y need for constant attention and approval. In particular he spoke of the Gen Y tendency to engage their managers constantly, seeking feedback on their work.  When I heard this, I was initially dismissive of these folks who seemed to need to have their hands held at the office.  Upon further reflection, however, I find myself wondering if they are all that different from their older colleagues.

The Gallup organization recently tested the impact on employee engagement of three different management styles: (1) my manager focuses on my strengths, (2) my manager focuses on my weaknesses, and (3) my manager ignores me.  The results of this study are thought-provoking:

We were disturbed to discover that a significant percentage of the respondents fit into the “ignored” category (25%).  …many U.S. managers ignore their employees, or so the employees perceive. Even more importantly, we found that if your manager focuses on your strengths, your chances of being actively disengaged at work are only 1 in 100. If your manager ignores you, though, you are about twice as likely to be actively disengaged at work than if your manager focuses on your weaknesses. Being overlooked, it seems, is more harmful to employees’ engagement than having to discuss their weaknesses with their manager.

So, it turns out that while we don’t all need hand holding, most of us do need to know we matter at work — regardless of age.  And, the best way for managers to communicate this is by talking to us.

Those Gen Y folks may be on to something.

[Photo Credit:  Lumaxart]

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