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MANAGEMENT & SUPERVISION

Find tips to oversee the work of volunteers and practical suggestions to supervise them. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive.

~ September 2006 ~ Topics

Managing Across the Generations


Managing Across the Generations

In the workplace, in volunteer offices, the military, and government bureaus managers are charged with organizing the tasks of a diverse work force. The diversity can be gender related, race or ethnicity, but one of the most challenging is the difference in the values of those born in certain age cohorts: traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, and Millenials.

  • Traditionalists (Born 1900-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
  • Generation Xers (Born 1965-1980)
  • Millennials (Born 1981-1999)

The youngest of this group is still in school and the oldest is likely retired, or soon to be. To manage across this diverse population is a constant challenge. How well do you understand the difference in Baby Boomers and Millenials when it comes to feedback and communication? Here is a short quiz to help you sort out the differences and adjust your management strategies accordingly.

The quiz comes from the work of Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, authors of When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work (HarperBusiness). They are the founding partners of Bridgeworks. They have written for or been featured in American Demographics, The Futurist, Success, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. Lancaster lives in Sonoma, California; Stillman in Tonka Bay, Minnesota.

To learn more about them visit their online site at http://www.generations.com/.

How to Solve the Generational Puzzle?
Adapted from the work of Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman


A. Which of the following is important for a Baby Boomer (Born 1946-1964)?

  1. Build parallel careers.
  2. Build a stellar career.
  3. Build a legacy.
  4. Build a portable career.

Your response? _______________________

B. Which of the following is important to Generation Xers (Born 1965-1980)?

  1. Give me balance now, not when I'm sixty-five.
  2. Support me in shifting the balance.
  3. Help me balance everyone else and find meaning myself.
  4. Work isn't everything; flexibility to balance my activities is.

Your response?_______________________

C. Which of the following feedback do Millennials (Born 1981-1999) prefer?

  1. Sorry to interrupt, but how am I doing?
  2. Once a year, with lots of documentation.
  3. No news is good news.
  4. Feedback whenever I want it, at the push of a button.

Your response? _______________________


How to Solve the Generational Puzzle? The Answers
Adapted from the work of Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman

A. Which of the following is important for a Baby Boomer (Born 1946-1964)?

  • Traditionalist (Born 1900-1945): Build a legacy.
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Build a stellar career.
  • Generation Xers (Born 1965-1980): Build a portable career.
  • Millennials (Born 1981-1999): Build parallel careers.

Loyal to a fault, Traditionalists expected to build a lifetime career with one employer, or at least in a single field, and to make a lasting contribution. Listening to the tick of the career clock, Baby Boomers find themselves questioning where they've been and where they're going. Yet the idea of having a stellar career is still utmost in the minds of many. Intent on looking for career security rather than job security, Generation Xers believe it is critical to build a repertoire of skills and experiences they can take with them if they need to. Millennials, who are just beginning to enter the workforce, have grown up multi-tasking, and believe that they will be able to pursue more than one line of work at the same time.

These work related goals often manifest themselves in the volunteer setting, hence, it is critical to provide different routes for each generation to achieve their goals. The Traditionalist is happy to volunteer and is not checking on details or worrying about tomorrow. The person plans to be around for a while. The Boomer is likely to want to achieve certain goals and be noted for being best at it. Generation Xers sometimes have a check list of things to be accomplished to be sure they are headed in right direction. The manager of volunteers who checks in with the Gen Xer can learn when they are changing direction or seeking a new challenge

B. Which of the following is important to Generation Xers (Born 1965-1980)?

  • Traditionalist (Born 1900-1945): Support me in shifting the balance.
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Help me balance everyone else and find meaning myself.
  • Generation Xers (Born 1965-1980): Give me balance now, not when I'm sixty-five.
  • Millennials (Born 1981-1999): Work isn't everything; flexibility to balance my activities is.

Many Traditionalists have reached a point of financial and career stability where they are able to ask for more balance, yet they want support and the approval. With single parent households, growing kids, aging parents, demanding jobs, and retirement looming on the horizon, Baby Boomers have realized there simply isn't enough time to do everything, and are asking for help in achieving a better balance. Xers, the generation that brought balance to the forefront of today's workplace, aren't just carefree kids anymore. They have adult concerns, including young children, and want the time and flexibility to take care of them, perhaps better than they saw their parents do. Millennials, the most over-programmed generation ever, have had the concept of balance drummed into their heads since birth by their Boomer parents.

Balance means not overworking any of the generations. Be respectful of family time for the younger generations and find services and tasks that can include family members. But keep in mind that balance means something different to each of the generations so understanding different perceptions of balance is the key to success.

C. Which of the following feedback do Millennials (Born 1981-1999) prefer?

  • Traditionalists (Born 1900-1945): No news is good news.
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Once a year, with lots of documentation.
  • Generation Xers (Born 1965-1980): Sorry to interrupt, but how am I doing?
  • Millennials (Born 1981-1999): Feedback whenever I want it at the push of a button.

The strong, silent types who made up a generation of Traditionalist leaders were not long on praise (they were not even long on words), but when they said something about your performance, they meant it. That worked fine, until along came the Baby Boomers, raised with the pop psychology of the sixties that said people should open up. The Boomers forced Traditionalist bosses to sit down with them on a regular basis and let them know where they stood. That worked fine until Generation X came along, asking for instantaneous, immediate feedback. We can only imagine what the Millennials will expect.

The feedback style of a manager of volunteers needs to adapt to different people’s needs. And it is not just frequency, but style, too: formal vs. frank, verbal vs. written, e-mail vs. memo, on the spot vs. a set time. Trying to adapt to all these styles can prove daunting. What a Traditionalist thinks is informative and helpful can seem formal and preachy to the Boomers and the Xers. Feedback a Boomer thinks is fair and judicious can seem uptight and overly political to a Generation Xer or a Traditionalist. Feedback a Generation Xer thinks is immediate and honest can seem hasty or even inappropriate to the other generations. Clearly, the generations have not signed off on what the feedback contract is supposed to look like.


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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Secrets of Leadership by Rick Lynch & Sue Vineyard and Best of All: The Quick Reference Guide to Effective Volunteer Involvement by Linda Graff.

Details for Secrets of Leadership Book Details for Best of All Book


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WSU ONLINE CERTIFICATE IN VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT

Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home. For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web site.


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