My company is putting more focus on and training us to approach and manage individuals from the different generations (Matures, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials).

We've been given a list of how to engage each group from what we, as managers should do, how our communication should be, how the corp culture should be, how training programs should be and how rewards and recognition should be.

My first impression is this is just a fad and has little validity. However, after listening to the presenters and reading the material, it seems like to there may be something to it. I am still very skeptical and think people are people regardless of what generation they are in. I think M&M have even said so in several of their casts.

My question is what does the MT community think about the "rules of engagement" towards the different generations?

HMac's picture

As "icing on the cake" they're fine. And the "cake" is a robust and proven methodology like DISC.

The fundamentals that systems like DISC get at - to quickly identify different communication styles for the purpose of becoming a better communicator with a broader set of people - are the core of any effective program. And then when things like generational styles come along, they can serve to re-energize attention, to add a little bit of new "flavor," and re-focus people on communicating better.

So yeah, these things like generational communications can become fads. But they're well-intentioned, and there's almost always some bit of content that's useful. But because they're fads they come and go - and that's why something like DISC ought to be the real core.

BJ_Marshall's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Forget icing - looking around my office, I don't even think people get enough cake!

If you're using DiSC, you're way ahead of the game.


tomas's picture

"Children nowadays are tyrants- they gobble their food, contradict their parents, and tyrannise their teachers!" Socrates, 425BC.

I like that quote, because it shows that intergenerational differences are often over-played but are really nothing new. Every generation thinks that the younger generations are terribly different to them but the differences end up being pretty marginal. A lot of the differences attributed to generations are really related to lifecycle issues. eg if you have an employee who is in their 60's you should probably be considering succession and retirement issues, but not just because they are a baby boomer. Equally a 19 year old who has a wife and kids to support isn't going to job hop as much as their peers, even though they are members of the same generation. It is the issues such as marriage, kids and retirement that are the key drivers, much moreso that generation issues in my humble opinion.

I do think that looking at the literature on inter-generational issues can highlight some specific issues that can be looked at, but ultimately explain very little of the differences in the behaviour of individuals. As others have mentioned, tools such as DISC are likely to be more useful in identifying likely patterns of behaviour in individuals..

TomW's picture
Training Badge

I think it's about as silly as "managing by sexual orientation," "managing by religion," or "managing by race."

People are individuals. It's one thing to manage by personality type, which is usually pretty reliable. Trying to manage by something that the person really has no control over (not to mention is illegal to actually consider for any business purpose) doesn't work.

Get to know your directs as individuals, and you won't need to worry about what demographic group they belong to.

AManagerTool's picture


What Tom said.

bflynn's picture

Ditto. You don't manage "generations", you manage people. When you start referring to people by groups or by titles, bad things happen.


richboberg's picture

Thanks for the input. It verifies my initial instincts. I have studied the DISC model and it makes much more sense then focusing on the generational differences.

The challenge I will have is working with my company's focus on the generations. Mostly dealing with HR. Any advice on this?

jhack's picture

If you have detailed observations of your team members' behavior and performance, and can discuss intelligently what motivates them and how they are most effective at work, I doubt you'll have too many issues with HR.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I absolutely agree with not treating people differently based on their age, race, orientatin, whatever. That being said, I do try to use references that mean something to the person I'm talking to.

Many young people aren't going to get cultural references from 30 years ago. Many older people aren't going to get modern references. People from an urban environment might not get rural references and vice versa.

Sometimes you can make that work for you. Use a reference they aren't familiar with to slow a conversation down and get better communication happening.

I don't treat people differently, but I do communicate differently. I have found that everyone, regardless of whatever factors they're composed of, enjoys honesty, respect, and appreciation. Some people like a handshake, some prefer a high-five, some like a quiet nod. All of 'em like cash. :)

HMac's picture

...depends on what exactly HR is expecting of you. You wrote:

[quote]We've been given a list of how to engage each group from what we, as managers should do, how our communication should be, how the corp culture should be, how training programs should be and how rewards and recognition should be.[/quote]

There could be some useful tools in there - or it could be a shapeless mass of techniques they think they're going to "train" you how to use. Or (more likely) it's a bunch of techniques they think you're going to magically start doing, because they gave you the list.

Is it just another fad? You know best, based on your organization's track record for investing in and sticking with new initiatives (being a management fad isn't necessarily the fault of the idea - it's the fault of a fad-driven leadership in the organization).

My personal approach with these things has been to try to take what I could from it - even when it's a fad - push it up against a proven system (in this case, like DiSC) and get the most from it.

Just don't let HR get you to take your eye off the ball: performance of your unit and acheivement of the organization's goals.


AManagerTool's picture

Did you ever hear an old guy say something to a young guy that they heard on MTV and didn't know the meaning of or completely lacked the credibility for? It's sort of like that.