Working with Multiple Generations to Create Productive Work Environments

By Suzanne McIntosh President, McIntosh Human Capital Management | March 22, 2015

We came to our hospitality careers by a number of different paths. Some of us fell in love early, decided to go to a hospitality school and plotted a career up through a specific discipline. Others found ourselves in a service role that grew into a lifelong career that took us all over the world. Everyone has their story, but we all agree that the diversity of cultures, disciplines and scenery that make up our everyday work lives in hotels is one of the most exciting aspects of our daily work lives.

Along with the cultural diversity, we also find ourselves working with multiple generations. Conceivably we could sit at the cafeteria lunch table with three generations defined as: Baby Boomers (born prior to 1965) Generation X (1965 – 1984) and Generation Y/Millennials (1985 to 2004).

Because our industry exists on and fosters multiple generational workplaces. It is important for our leaders and managers to understand the specific characteristics of each and how they were acquired. Conceivably a Millennial could be a manager of a Baby Boomer or vice versa. This can result in workplace challenges as we struggle to understand the different characteristics of each generation and how to communicate, manage, motivate, discipline and reward as well as attract high performing talent from every generation. Gifted managers can capitalize on these differences for positive inter-generational leadership and communication.
Baby Boomers. The Boomer Generation is often portrayed as a generation of optimism, self actualization and achievement. Boomers put emphasis on individual choice, community involvement and prosperity. They have a preference for face-to-face interaction, conflict avoidance and a team approach to decision making focusing on the result, not the procedure.

Boomers as Bosses…have high expectations for themselves and that of their team members. They expect everyone to contribute equally and at a very high level. Boomers tend to have a very strong work ethic and are accustomed to making personal sacrifices for the sake of their work. Our industry often requires a 24/7 commitment…Boomers came up through their careers with this attitude and if they are managing multi generations they may have the same expectation. If a Millennial subordinate does not hold this discipline a Boomer may see them as lazy or not committed. This is not the case, the Millennial just has a different set of priorities and attitudes to work/life balance.

Boomers respect authority and feel that a title automatically commands respect. A Boomer Director of Sales can empty out a hotel sales department of Millennials if they don’t recognize they have to earn the respect of their team rather than automatically gaining it as a result of their title.

Generation X. Generation X has less traditional work attitudes than the Baby Boomer generation preceding them. Unlike Boomers who tended to stay in companies for longer periods Generation X learned that loyalty does not necessarily translate into job security. This can result in frequent job changing and less personal sacrifice for “the long term”. It can be challenging for

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