Managing Millenials: Five Common Issues Leaders Face

Posted on September 26, 2016

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Erika Riehle, ibm.com

Managing teams is hard, but managing teams of diverse ages and experience levels can be even harder. A popular tool for managers is Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The book outlines five common ways teams fail, but it doesn’t directly address managing different ranges of experience and age. With the spotlight on millennials and the increasing impact they have on the workforce, it’s important to consider how generational differences can impact a team.

To address the critical differences in generations, the IBM Institute of Business Value (IBV) published a study on millennials (aged 21-34), gen x (aged 35-49) and baby boomers (aged 50-60). We’ll apply data from that study to the following dysfunctions to see how generations are impacted by common team problems.

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

Specifically related to vulnerability and a fear of asking for help, this dysfunction is characterized by an inability to admit mistakes and share challenges. It’s easy to have a positive team environment when goals are met and things are going well. It’s much harder to encourage honesty when performance isn’t meeting standards. A lack of trust among team members can stifle any attempts to reach out for help.

Generations play a large role in this dysfunction. There is a natural tendency for those who are newer in their careers (millennials) to be more open with their challenges and willing to seek the advice of peers. In contrast, the IBV study found that only 39 percent of baby boomers feel compelled to include others in their decisions. To balance this disparity, it’s critical to create an environment of sharing to ensure there is trust among all members of the team, including senior members.

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