Competition is one of the principles of the market relations. Products and delivered services need constant improvement and modernization. This fact changes team management approaches both in style and ways of leading modern companies. At the same time, the conditions and means for improvement become more sophisticated and challenging than they used to be some decades ago (Salkowitz, 2008).
The age of modern technologies brings a great imbalance into professional and human values of different generations. The generation gap seems to have become a gulf. A lot of older workers feel frustrated and disappointed with new challenges while planning professional and social growth. At the same time, the youth is formed and developed in the environment which makes young people minimize the energy wasted. In general, younger generation might be characterized as pragmatic and economic individuals looking for profit. They are more concerned with material values and do not tend to express emotions abundantly. They are ironic and self-critical. The above assumptions are general and sound like stereotypes, but still they have a solid ground.
Some time, being a leader can become a real challenge for a young person. As Robbins noted, not every person agrees to become a part of a team (Robbins, 2013). The problem of team management is complicated and often appears in cases when the leader is ambitious and inexperienced. It should be noted that modern young leaders tend to be less formal and openly speak their mind to any worker, without consideration of age and other traditional barriers. The point is the success gained while performing professional tasks, and young people can be rude and disrespectful in their comments, appreciations and orders (Hannum, McFeeters, & Booysen, 2001).
First of all, a young leader should try to see and admit the difference between generations and find advantages and disadvantages of both counterparts. Older people may have different values, working style or way of thinking. Modern teaching approaches encourage development of initiative and creativity. Some decades ago, reproductive methods thrived in the system of teaching and upbringing. As a result, older team workers tend to be more hardworking, responsible and executive than the representatives of the young generation. At the same time, older team members may lack productive thinking, computer knowledge and initiative, which are compulsory aspects of teaching in modern educational institutions. Older people were taught skills and habits while modern schools try to develop imagination, creative thinking and philosophy. The problem refers to cognitive sphere of personality. The values and the way of problem solving differ from generation to generation (Salkowitz, 2008).
As Salkowitz notes, the automation of labor has increased recently and new technologies now enter the specific human activities, such as decision making, leadership, learning, communication, trust and personal reputation (Salkowitz, 2008). The scholar detects three generational groups, which greatly differ in their cognitive and mental functions because of certain historical environment. They are Baby Boomers (1946-1962), Generation-X (1963-1980) and Millennial (1981-2000). Salkowitz underlines that computer technologies resulted into ‘digital age gap’, which divided working population into two significant groups: people who got acquainted with a personal computer before or after graduating the high school.
Technology-mediated environment affects the ways of getting information and working with it. It means that time of first contact with digital devices has shifted to a very early age. Constantly growing amount of information brings the necessity to structuralize and optimize information. Older people may have problems when dealing with large amounts of information. Moreover, there are computer engines, which can do it better than a man.
Nowadays, children play and work with computers since their early years. There is even a problem of computer addiction when kids refuse to be engaged with something else. A lot of psychological problems connected with the lack of live communication can appear as a result of computer and Internet addiction.. Computer technologies have brought new possibilities for communication, but they have not improved its interactive quality. Moreover, it should be noted that communication becomes silent. Non-verbal forms of communication become popular and common.
Young leaders can feel frustrated and ironic when such a question arises: “What can an older worker bring to a modern and successful organization with high-tech technologies and state-of-the-at management?” Being young and inexperienced, he or she may fail to see the advantages, which an older person can bring to a company.
It goes without saying that the youth has a privileged position in jobs market. The former situation, when maturity and experience meant a lot for employer, loses its actuality for present day stuff management. Older employees often become victims of the scientific progress. The very important contribution of older people is their ability to experience joys which are not connected with digital devices and high-tech technologies (Salkowitz, 2008).
When working with older people, a young leader should avoid stereotyping. Notwithstanding the fact that work in team focuses on a group and not on individualism, it is very important not to make general assumptions and quick conclusions. People, their personality and special vision on the production process make the company unique and create a special atmosphere on the workplace. Every individual brings special energy into the common process. A wise leader should be ready to take advantage of this energy, save and multiply it. If an older person is group oriented and can work for a common result, he or she can be trained as a perfect team staff. Readiness to work in a group is a personal, not an age characteristic, and it is very important for effective work of a team. Team is a blend of individuals who are ready to improve for the common good, and older members are usually more willing to sacrifice their ambitions.
In the modern world of market relations, high level of competition makes people cooperate and use all their best professional and personal abilities for gaining a common result. Older team members tend to have more stereotypes than their young colleagues. They have traditional and conservative vision and views on life and try to follow some standards which bring stability to their existence. Younger generation breaks standards and often follows the principles of joy, freedom and pleasure.
Pluralism and tolerance are necessary elements in team management. Ability to listen, accept and perceive another people’s values and opinions and not compare or contradict them is an important aspect of successful communication. These attitudes should be cultivated both in staff and managers as they are necessary for effective interaction not only in the age aspect. Pluralism and tolerance are necessary for both young leaders and older team members while working on the same result.
The problem of the generation gap can be compared to the problem of racial, cultural or gender discrimination in the modern jobs market. Competence and abilities to get result become the most important employee’s characteristics. Leading position belongs to those who have professional abilities, and skills can be coherent and firm in making decisions and apply creative approach.
While working with older people, a young leader should use basic psychological knowledge and take into consideration the needs and motives of the staff. Understanding people helps in management and organization. If stereotypes or rigidness prevents a young leader from seeing the existence of various visions on the problem, he or she may lose important ideas and fail the project.
When opening a vacancy, an employer looks for energetic, ambitious, young workers. At the same time, a wise hirer needs a competent employee with a successful experience in the sphere. Experience means a lot when executing some practical tasks or carrying out some typical projects. As well as wisdom, not only professional but general life experience is an important advantage of aged people. They can associate a newly appeared problem with the one they have already had, and it helps them to find a most reasonable decision. Young leaders should consult their older team members and use their advice for the benefits of group.
Scientific progress brings a conflict into the organizational process from the technological angle. Nowadays, there is a generation, which has grown on computers and does not read books or play games in the streets with their fellows. Their values and life standards differ from those cherished by their parents. When young people come to work, they may have up-to-date theoretical knowledge, which they got at the university. Computer studies and science have advanced a lot. Everyday, floods of new information appear in various spheres of human life, on the Internet and other mass media. Taking into consideration this fact, older team members can feel frustrated and even become inefficient and incompetent in their professional spheres. Though occupational retraining is a typical practice, older team members can be more inflexible and rigid than their young colleagues who have freshly required learning skills. It is not difficult to teach the older team members some new technologies, but it is much more difficult task to make them study and improve constantly if it is not a habit or mental necessity. The secret of successful managing of older people is in constant communicating with them. These workers need special motivation and reasonable support (LaFasto & Larson, 2001).
A young leader should learn what the motives and the essential needs of the aged worker are to discuss his desirable schedule or flexible working hours, try to understand and accept his or her values. The motivational sphere of young, middle-aged and elderly people differ greatly. Young workers are ambitious and want to make a successful career. Middle-aged and elderly people are more concerned with the income and social standards advantages.
Older and experienced workers often claim to have higher salaries. In older age, people are less interested in managing ambitious projects, and they do not tend to work in challenging conditions without reasonable compensation. When a person becomes older, she or he is more afraid to lose the job and financial stability.
The aged team members are usually willing to share their knowledge and experience. A wise leader would create the conditions, which might help in revealing important production and process secrets. Being grateful and helpful helps young leaders in the establishment of friendly relations with older team members (LaFasto& Larson, 2001). This is a part of successful management process which helps to avoid unnecessary tension and not to focus on negative revelations. Older members of the team are often more vulnerable to disrespectful attitude than younger ones. They tend to be formal, and they are adherent to rules and planning.
Conflicts may appear when some of the parts start intruding upon values of the other side. The concepts and objects of importance differ not only in accordance with age the difference. They are stipulated by cultural, ethnic, religious gender aspects, too. If a personality respects the other people’s right of free choice, she or he expects the same attitude to his or her values. Conflicts can be provoked by comparison of life principles then and now, or by the negative appreciation of the recent or current life style.
As Robbins states, working in a group needs strong group values (Robbins, 2013). If young leaders want to have a result by joining efforts of his team, they have to select people with strong collective needs and values. Older people tend to be less ego-centric and they are mostly motivated by social advantages and guarantees than by the perspectives of becoming a successful leader.
As Robbins states, there are three types of conflicts in a team: task, relationship and process. Task and process conflicts are provoked by the situations connected with the production and delivery of service. When, for example, an older team member gives a useful instruction to a younger leader, it should be analyzed and at least discussed. The prompt may lead to the improvement of the task fulfillment or to the better service delivery. Such conflicts are functional and even positive. Relationship conflicts have proven to be dysfunctional. If a young leader wants to carry out project successfully, he or she should concentrate on common tasks and process. Friendly relations would be useful for both counterparts.
In conclusion, it should be noted that when a young leader faces the problems when leading the older team members, he or she should remember that he deals with individuals who need special care and attitude. They are different because they belong to another generation, which did not have digital devices and had to experience simple human joys like friendship, love, learning, live communication, trust. They have special attitudes and more complex vision of typical routine everyday activity. Their daily activity used to be hard work to them, and now it is the question of pushing a button.
For the better productivity, leaders of the organization should solve generation puzzle and try to achieve generation blend at their companies. Older workers can bring some human abilities, which are neglected by younger people. They can bring another retro vision of reality, which is so popular nowadays in art and design. Of course, they should be trained to be flexible and tolerant as well and show mutual respect to the joys and preferences of the young. While working in a team, young leaders should try to provoke task and process conflicts, and avoid personal conflicts. The values and attitudes are too different, but they should be perceived and at least mutually admired by both counterparts.