Coping across generations

businessman holding trophyYou’ve probably heard the one about Gen Y’ers wanting—and ex­­pect­­ing—constant feedback.

Two things to know about that generational myth: First, it’s not ex­­actly true. Second, if you accept it at face value, it could get in the way of good intergenerational relationships.

Crossing generational lines is critical to getting stuff done in today’s workplace—where you’ll interact with Gen Y’ers, Gen X’ers and baby boomers—says Bruce Tulgan, author of Managing Generation X.

Generational myth #1: Generation Y wants constant feedback.

Truth: “Almost all savvy young people know that they’re not all winners,” says Tulgan. They’ve grown up with an awareness that practically anything can be measured. So they want to know what actually is being measured and how they can score points.

“They’re saying, ‘Don’t pat me on the back and tell me I’m doing fine and then fire me at the end of the year,’” Tulgan says.

 “They don’t have confidence that if they keep their heads down and suck it up and show up working hard every day that they will be fine,” Tulgan says.

Generational myth #2: Gen Y’ers want a trophy just for showing up.

Truth: Like most workers, the ma­jority of Gen Y’ers want to be taken seriously, given the benchmarks for high performance, guided by honest feedback, and led by a strong leader.

They also want to know “how much grunt work exactly do they have to do before they get more re­­sponsibilities and challenges,” Tulgan says.

Generational myth #3: Older people have a lot of rules and procedures, for no good reason.

Truth: Good reasons likely exist for rules and procedures. Step one (for younger workers) is to learn the rules. Step two is to decide whether you can improve upon them.

— Adapted from “How to Cross Age Barriers at Work,” Kelly Eggers, FINS.