Ask the Expert: V2 Issue2

1. My team members who belong to the twenty years plus age group just don’t take the initiative to get their work done. It is irritating to constantly tell them about the tasks they need to complete. They really don’t seem to have the work ethic that my older team members do. Please tell me how do I get them to show accountability for achieving their goals and objectives?

The work ethic of earlier generations was different. Typically, they were intrinsically motivated. They worked for work’s sake or because their self-image was based on their careers. The current generation has different work ethics. Most are not motivated by threats of punishment or firing. The good news is basically Gen Y is keen on performing. They have already been exposed to a performance culture. But they are used to their parents managing their schedules and activities. Getting them to drive their own performance will require guidance from you as their manager.

Spell out tasks to them clearly even the smallest of details. Do not expect them to understand what seems obvious to you. Demonstrate clearly to them the purpose of all tasks. Explain the business priorities, the big impact of what they are doing, especially for those tasks that may seem less interesting to them.  Regularly reiterate priorities since typically new and exciting projects grab their attention regardless of their priority status. Ensure there are easy systems in place for them to understand from you about their progress or for you to follow up with them. 

Get excited about the tasks with them to push them to take action. To ensure their energy stays high, keep up the excitement. Provide lots of performance feedback.  Coach them and provide them training and development opportunities to help them increase their expertise.What works with the current generation is setting short term goals with an end reward. Most importantly get to know them and their needs, even personal ones better. (Do read the article in this issue about understanding Gen Y.) Find out what is it that they are expecting to get out of their jobs? Link the benefit of doing a task with what they desire in a job.


2. In my team, I have people belonging to both Gen Y and earlier generations.  How do I get them to work together effectively with their diverse styles?

Conflicts between generations arise due to the perceptions they have of each other. For instance, older generations may think the youngsters in the workplace are lazy. While the Gen Y may think the older generations are too rigid. But there are ways to get people belonging to different generations to work together.



    • Encourage them to draw upon each other’s strength: Help your team members understand each other’s strengths. Then focus on leveraging those strengths for the team’s benefit rather than becoming unproductive as a team because of value differences. While allocating work, team up people from different generations who enjoy spending time together and learning from each other. So an experienced person can share his/her wisdom about the organization or the functional field with a Gen Y in exchange for knowledge on the latest in technology.

    • Build on the common values they share: All of them want a culture of empowerment, regular and constructive feedback, to be treated with respect, high commitment to the task from their colleagues and honesty in relationships. So create an environment which encourages these.

    • Focus on the team objectives: A great team is one which has great teamwork. Regardless of the generation each team member belongs to, get all of them to identify with the common team objectives and get them thinking on how is everyone going to work together successfully to achieve the same.

    • Allocate tasks based on what each generation likes:  So for example it may be good idea to give the “research on new things” part of the project to Gen Y while others focus on figuring it out how to practically implement it.

    • Have team norms but provide flexibiltiy on how each one wants to learn and work: Some generations are looking for handwritten notes. Others do not like to work independently, and they expect to have meetings any time, any place. Some generations will not entertain hearing about the project outside of work. And the Yers don’t want any meetings at all, they only communicate via voice mail and e-mail. Treat and manage them as per individual needs and not the same.


3. I am bright. So I am able to finish the tasks assigned to me fast. My other team members are slow and perhaps need to stay late beyond office hours. But not me. But my manager does not get it and expects me to be in office late? I am unable to meet my other commitments in my personal life because of this. What do I do?


I know how frustrated you must be feeling. If you think this is a temporary phenomenon then adjusting to this maybe the best thing to do. If not, talk to your manager. Maybe your manager has his reasons for expecting you to stay up late. Try and find out before you talk to him. Is the project running late because of which you need to put in extra effort for sometime. Have you not completed tasks assigned to you on time in the past? Is he the kind who thinks face time is equal to quality and quantity of work? Does he want you to be with the team and help them with their workload? Does he belong the generation for whom work is everything and who thinks it should be the same with others?

Also until one proves oneself it is difficult for anybody to assess your capability. Maybe your manager does not realize that you are smart. Why don’t you request for a review of the work done so far. Let him see the progress you have made. I think once you prove you can do good work in less time, he will not feel the need for you to work late. During the review ask him if he has anything else that he had in mind that he wanted you to complete.  Indicate to him the other commitments in your personal life and how you hope to meet them. Have a frank discussion with him/her on how they have been affected because of work.  I am sure he will be more understanding about your work hours thereafter.

In addition to getting an OK from your manager on leaving office once you finish your work, there is an important thing you must to do. If other team members are genuinely struggling with their work you should help them out. After all what are smart team members for?



  1. Burgess, P, “Leading Generation Y”,