Effectively Providing Feedback to Multiple Generations

Recently, it seems that the request for generational workplace support has been increasing! This increase has been in the form of both trainings and consultation.  Last month, my colleague and I conducted a few trainings on generational differences in the workplace. This was an interesting dynamic between the two of us co-facilitating as he is a Baby-Boomer and I am a Gen Y. Interestingly enough, it seemed that there was a healthy balance of both enthusiasm and skepticism about this topic throughout the audience. After the trainings, a number of people from all generations came up to the front asking questions, bringing up concerns, and sharing stories. One particular comment that a manager made stimulated me to do further research. This manager said that he works with people of all generations and found that you need to consider the generation in order to give effective feedback. I thought, “hmmm… that makes sense and now I need to learn more!”

The sources that I looked at regarding generational differences and effective ways to provide feedback tended to be consistent. Here are some suggestions for how to provide feedback to your colleagues or employees…

“Generation Ys” a.k.a. “Millennials”

  • Generation Ys prefer instant and constant feedback since they are always interested in improving themselves (Szakonyi, 2008).
  • Give Generation Ys their feedback face-to-face because they tend to enjoy building relationships with their managers and colleagues (Springer, 2011).
  • Millennials like to give feedback just as much as they appreciate it, Millennials may or may not be as skilled or savvy in how they give feedback and therefore may require coaching (Green, 2011).
  • Be sure to give Millennials positive feedback too! This generation sure loves to know that their daily contributions are noticed and appreciated as it validates their contributions to their organization (Green, 2011).

“Generation X”

  • Generation Xs tend to prefer continuous feedback; this may be attributed to their Baby Boomer parents who provided them with constant feedback (Szakonyi, 2008).
  • Generation Xs tend to take feedback better when they feel that their employers are flexible since flexibility is highly valued by the Gen Xer (Szakonyi, 2008).
  • When providing feedback to Gen Xers, be sure to share with them how their progress related to the feedback will make a difference (Green, 2012).

“Baby Boomers”

  • Baby Boomers love to provide effective feedback to their colleagues since it helps them feel that they have more control over what they are working on (Green, 2012).
  • Baby Boomers also prefer regular feedback and when they are not receiving it, they look for it through behavioral signs and tend to assume the worse and typically negatively (Green, 2012).
  • Baby Boomers also appreciate “conventional types” of feedback including reviews (Szakonyi, 2008).
  • When Baby Boomers are doing well, they appreciate credit and recognition to others (Szakonyi, 2008).

“Veterans”

  • The Veterans prefer the “no news is good news” method of feedback and prefer not to be bothered with small and mundane details (Green, 2012).
  • When constructive feedback is necessary, consider in-person meetings instead of through e-mails or phone calls (Green, 2011).
  • When the Veterans are not receiving feedback, they too will look for hints about their performance. They may interpret behavior such as being invited to mentor or present as them doing good work and on the flip side, they may interpret being questioned or left out as them not performing optimally (Green, 2012).
  • When providing positive feedback, consider doing it publicly for the Veteran’s group (Green, 2012).

Did you just read through this and feel that your generation’s recommended feedback method and determine that it does not fit your preference? That’s okay! Keep in mind that this is just  a generalization. As a Manager, please keep in mind that providing feedback is not a one-size-fits all, even when considering additional variables such as generations.

Dani Kimlinger, MHA, PHR, Consultant, BizPsych

________________________________________________________________________________________
Green, H. (2012, June 26). How to Give Four Generations Feedback. In Forbes. Retrieved August 19, 2012, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/26/how-to-give-four-generations-feedback/

Springer, H. (2011, January 7). Providing feedback to different generations at the workplace. In The Examiner. Retrieved August 18, 2012, from http://www.examiner.com/article/providing-feedback-to-different-generations-at-the-workplace

Szakonyi, M. (2007, January 7). Different generations require different feedback, motivation. In Jacksonville Business Journal. Retrieved August 19, 2012, from http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2008/01/07/story7.html?page=all

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