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Navigating the Multigenerational Workplace

Today’s workforce is more generationally diverse than ever before. With more professionals delaying retirement—either by choice or necessity—organizations now have employees from as many as four different generations working side by side. Soon, for the first time in history, a fifth generation will join the mix.

For Nicholas Pearce, a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, this generational diversity can be an asset, not a liability. But it is up to business leaders to make the most of the shift in demographics. “If it’s not leveraged, diversity can lead to chaos and confusion.”

To make diversity work, Pearce says, leaders need to be more aware of the “pain points” that are likely to cause generational tension. “Many times, the tension is blamed on differences in maturity, when in actuality, generational differences are often the source of the conflict,” he says. Each of the four generations—traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials—has a different idea about workplace standards, from communication protocol, to the preferred style and frequency of feedback, to conceptions of whether respect is earned on the basis of experience or competence.

Traditionalists and baby boomers, for example, tend ...

Being a Go-Getter Is No Fun

The phrase “shit hits the fan” has uncertain origins. Some claim it’s a descendant of a World War II adage “the garbage hit the fan.” As the Online Etymology Dictionary has it, it derives from an old poop jokeThe Yale Book of Quotationsdoesn’t have a say on the phrase at all (though “shit happens” is attributed to Connie Eble of Chapel Hill).

In any case, people have probably heard the phrase in reference to something gone awry at work or in life. In either setting, when the shit does hit the fan, people will tend to look to the most competent person in the room to take over.

And too bad for that person. A new paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado looks at not only how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers, but how those people feel when, at crucial moments, everyone turns to them. They find that responsible employees are not terribly pleased about this dynamic either.

To begin, the researchers began by establishing that people do, in fact, assign more tasks to those they perceived as more competent. In ...

Americans Don’t Moonlight Like We Used To

The Bureau of Labor Statistics looked into people who juggle multiple jobs in its April Monthly Labor Review, and it found that the practice is getting less and less popular these days.

One would think that bad recessions like the one the US is still struggling to recover from would spur people to pick up work on the side to make ends meet, but apparently not.

The most glaring caveat, especially for those keeping a keen eye on the so-called “1099 economy” of app-enabled contract workers, is that the BLS used data that doesn’t count the self-employed as having multiple jobs (assuming workers defined themselves that way).

“Excluded from the definition are individuals who were unpaid family workers on their primary job as well as individuals who were self-employed on their primary job and were either self-employed or unpaid family workers on their second job,” the agency noted.

Still, the trend is pretty clear. The relatively rare practice of picking up multiple jobs is becoming a lot rarer.

In fact, the reverse phenomenon was far more common, though it’s also happening less often.

Why’s this happening? The biggest takeaway from the report, which runs the numbers for ...

Lead From Need: Four Ways to Motivate Employees

His CEO performance review is in and Scott is clearly alarmed. Unless next quarter’s KPI goals are met the governance committee will ask for his resignation. He grabs his phone and calls Jarin, his gregarious college roommate and the person who transformed Silicon Beach’s most dysfunctional company into one of its most electric. “Jarin, I need your help. My staff is not producing like they once were. They are lethargic, apathetic, unmotivated, dis…”

“Disengaged,” interjects Jarin. “So how are you keeping your people engaged?”

Scott: “We’ve been investing heavily into employee engagement programs, but they’re not really working. We keep pouring money into recruiting and retaining the best. We even keep increasing salaries, benefits and perks, basically giving them everything they want, but nothing’s working.”

Jarin: “The problem is you’re giving them what they think they want, but not what they really need. Your employees are emotionally detached; their real needs aren’t being met. Fat salaries and perks are great, but what they really want is to be inspired, connected and living a life of purpose. They need to feel valued. As their leader you need to lead from need. Once our basic ...

America's Aging Population Is Bad News for Women's Careers

Giving moms and dads time off to bond with a new baby or take care of a sick child are the types of leave policies that get lots of attention and—relatively speaking—support. While childcare is obviously important, there’s a growing need for policies that help family caregivers in a broad spectrum of circumstances. And as the population ages, flexible benefits that allow workers to take time away to care for their aging parents and relatives will become more and more important.

While the need to lend a hand to a relative is nothing new, the sheer size of  the aging population presents a unique problem. By 2030, about 20 percent of the population will be senior citizens. And age-related infirmities can often come up suddenly—for instance a fall or a stroke—leaving families scrambling both financially and logistically.

Women make up the bulk of caretakers and even if they’re acting in an unofficial capacity, the requirements of caring for someone else can force many women to reduce their participation in the labor force. According to a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women are nine times more likely to report working ...