Make us your home page
Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Don't assume age is to blame for younger workers' bad behavior

QAs a manager with more than 20 years' experience, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the aggressively disrespectful way many young employees deal with authority. How much of this is generational? A reflection of my management style? The larger culture that seems to encourage berating anyone you disagree with? What can I do to change the tone in my rather young team?

A: Is it you? Is it them? Maybe both, so make a plan that creates shared standards and builds mutual understanding.

First, address the personal stress that being in a high-conflict workplace has created for you. Build time into your day to recharge — if only for five minutes in a quiet place or through chatting with someone you're comfortable with — so that you don't get overwhelmed. Remember to take deep breaths to stay physically charged.

Then take a calm look at the situation. Do you have a widespread attitude issue, or is it more focused on a small number of individuals or even one individual? After all, anger management problems affect all generations, so extreme cases may not have much to do with generational differences at all.

Evaluate your skills in managing people who have expectations and values that differ from those you were raised with. Consider whether you bring a tone of openness and respect, or whether your approach triggers pushback from younger employees. This will be hard to spot on your own, so find people who can give you feedback. Then listen receptively, even if it's hard to hear.

Finally, set your goal. My hunch is that you're hoping to have a positive, results-focused workplace where people feel satisfied with their chance to make a difference. Focus on what your ideal outcome looks and feels like so that you can unite your team around this vision.

As you set a new course, learn more about the workplace expectations of younger generations. As a group, you'll find that they want meaning in their work, and are collaborative, flexible and used to having their needs addressed. Focus on the benefits that this provides, specifically, the ability to engage them in solving the problems you face in creative and energizing ways.

What does this mean in practice? Consider holding a session where you and your team talk about establishing a healthy and respectful work culture. If you've established that there really is a generational split, be open about that, but in a way that reflects your willingness to adapt. Define the issue as you see it (needing to have a positive tone at work) and your vision for what the workplace should be. Then let the team build a shared vision and steps to get there.

If you have abusive employees, this will not solve your problem. But creating explicit expectations with the team for what is — and is not — acceptable will help you set limits on what will be tolerated, and may help get them out the door if they can't adapt to your expectations.

Build bridges with younger employees without accepting behavior that crosses the line, no matter the age group.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

On the Web

Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees:


Generation Y's Workplace Expectations:'s-workplace-expectations/

Managing Across Generations: cross_


Don't assume age is to blame for younger workers' bad behavior 07/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 8:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Expanded Belle Parc RV Resort lures travelers with plenty of amenities


    BROOKSVILLE — Imagine mid-mansion, upscale-enclave living. On wheels. The outcome is Belle Parc, an upwardly mobile, even luxury, RV retreat just north of Brooksville that opened Jan. 1 after two years undergoing expansion, uplift and amenity enrichment.

    A new welcome center is under construction, rear, at Belle Parc RV Resort, where lake sites are being completed, bringing the resort's capacity to 275 spacious park-and-stay slots.
 [Photo by Beth N. Gray]
  2. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls


    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
  3. Austin software company acquires second Tampa business


    Austin, Tex.-based Asure Software acquired Tampa's Compass HRM Inc. late last week for $6 million. Compass focuses on HR and payroll.

    [Company photo]
  4. Hackers hide cyberattacks in social media posts


    SAN FRANCISCO — It took only one attempt for Russian hackers to make their way into the computer of a Pentagon official. But the attack didn't come through an email or a file buried within a seemingly innocuous document.

    Jay Kaplan and Mark Kuhr, former NSA employees and co-founders of Synack, a cybersecurity company, in their office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2013. While last year's hacking of senior Democratic Party officials raised awareness of the damage caused if just a handful of employees click on the wrong emails, few people realize that a message on Twitter or Facebook could give an attacker similar access to their system. 
[New York Times file photo]
  5. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times