Ask the nursing expert ... about managing across generations

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Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA
Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA

How can I navigate the many variables I'm faced with — age, gender, culture, education levels — to put a quality team together?

This is tackled in Greg Hammill's “Mixing and Managing Four Generations.” 

For the first time in American history, we have four generations of clinicians working together, bringing yet another opportunity for enrichment and culture change.  

First, we have the SILENT GENERATION.  This group presents as very disciplined and loyal to the team. They work most effectively in a system-based model with traditional work ethics and also seek approval from superiors.

The largest group is the BABY BOOMERS. They are optimistic, competitive and have personal accomplishment as a focus. Their primary focus is work and they work hard, leading to stress, burnout and higher levels of stress-related illness. This group has little patience with what they see as a lack of work ethic in younger generations. Boomers may tend to complain more and accept problems as part of the job, yet strive for self-improvement.

Next we see the emergence of GENERATION X. This age group tends to become resentful of someone looking over their shoulder and readily challenges authority. They have loyalty to their peers and immediate supervisors where they get instant gratification.

Last, we meet GENERATION Y or the MILLENNIAL GENERATION. They come to the workplace having learned early how to multitask and work well in groups having experienced sports, music lessons and a social achievement-centered environment.This entitled generation expects structure, respect, position and titles. They have an innate desire to connect with the boss.

Our challenge as nursing managers is to build on the strengths of each group and get everybody working toward a common goal.