In a conversation with a seasoned manager who asked me why I believed morale was so poor in his organization, I stated that the thing most often heard wafting through the cubicles was that people simply don’t trust the management here. “Well, that’s universal.” he stated, and quickly dismissed the concerns people were uttering as just usual, typical, workplace angst.
And so, improving the situation quickly became impossible or, at the very least, set back for quite a while.
Now, it would be easy to point out the ignorance of this approach, or how such thinking leads to long-term disengagement, to how the failure to put aside personal perceptions and attempt to understand a situation before launching into a solution is a far more optimal approach, etc, etc, etc. Certainly, all of these things were my first, immediate, and emotional reactions. Upon reflection, however, I realized that this problem was born from different perspectives on management’s role among the age groups in the organization.
Those who felt that the staff was – for lack of a better term – whining, were all north of 55 years of age, and most of those were north of 60. Their expectation was that managers were tough, not very understanding, at that the entire management rank of the organization was something for everyone else to contend with and develop mechanisms around.
The folks on the other end of the spectrum were all 30-40 years old, and had an expectation that, while management needed to be stood up to at times, its primary function was to enable workers as much as possible. Managers, from their point of view, needed to make adjustments in their own behavior when confronted so that the organization as a whole, as well as the people within it, could thrive.
Younger still, and with a very different perspective, were those who were 20-30 years old, who believed they shouldn’t even have to confront management and let them know where the problems were. They expected management to be involved, engaged, and have a deep understanding o the work such that problems were prevented, not simply addressed when they arose.
Some of this difference in perspective has to do with simple matters of maturity. s you get older, you get a little more grizzled, tougher, and less likely to expect that someone else is going to take care of you. Some of it, however, is also generational – my belief is that those folks who are in their 20s now will be more likely to look for collaborative and trustworthy management styles when they are in their 60s, as well as be more likely to create a sense of trust in the organization as they rise through the ranks.
They will not achieve it 100%, of course, since having to bend the young whelps into shape is a part of maturing and becoming a leader. There are clear differences in the expectations that generations have of the role of management, however, and not all of those expectations will erode over time.
For the highest ranks of management, this is an important element of team dynamics to understand. There are going to be conflicts arising from role expectations, management styles, personality types and even just work habits. But what is driving those attributes? The root cause may be something so simple as understanding when a person was born.
My best advice to anyone, regardless of age group, is simple: Seek understanding and reflect before speaking. Every opinion is a valid one, and you will understand it better if you first learn to understand the premise with which it was made. This will provide you with an opportunity to examine your own opinions and behaviors and then decide if you are the one who needs to grow up a little, or regain a little of your lost youthful optimism.