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Team Leadership, Is Like Navigating a Winding Road

Imagine it’s a typical day in the office, and Monday morning's 11:00 am team meeting has just ended...Bob and Bill, a Boomer and a Gen Xer leave angrily...

“Bill, what heck the was that?!  These damn Millennials are so arrogant it’s unbelievable, can you believe Arden just let his team run off at the mouth. Does he think he can come in here and take over?” Bill responds, “I hear ya, Bob. He’s the FNG!  Who does he think he is?  They all think they’re entitled to everything!!”  Bob says, “Classic CLM!  He’s gotta learn around here; it’s ETR baby, ETR!” Note to Millennials and Gen Z: ETR (Earn the right), FNG (F’n New Guy/Girl), and CLM (Career Limiting Move).

Arden and Amber, a Millennial and Gen Z, left the meeting disheartened. They walk to a great tea café’, and have a cup of kava and a shaken black tea. Arden starts, “I felt like Bob

personally attacking me. He made me and my team feel like our ideas sucked. I’m not sure if I want to work here anymore. Maybe I should go where I’m appreciated.” 

Amber responds, “I felt the same way when I got promoted. When I tried to give input, Sue always cut me off, like I was some plebe. However, Sue and I talked, and I told her how I felt. She was shocked. She didn’t mean to make me feel rejected or unappreciated. She was just trying to make sure everyone got a chance to speak.” Note to Xers and Boomers: Kava (nature’s Xanax) is a relaxing muddy looking warm drink.

One of the growing areas affecting team building is when and how new team members find acceptance and a voice within workgroups; this is called Team Membership NegotiationTeam Membership Negotiation must be managed positively. There are perceived differences in work ethic as demonstrated in the example above. However, these perceived differences are mainly due to misunderstandings between generational communication styles and norms. These perceived differences create barriers to being accepted within new workgroups. As different work norm beliefs surface, disparities in accepted practices may make older group members marginalize younger newcomers. The marginalization intensifies with lower-level communication skills, which lack understanding of each generation’s preferred communication methods. Gen Xers notoriously dislike group work and meetings, yet Millennials have grown up in workgroup environments and meeting in groups from grade school through university studies.

Group and team environments have a great deal of importance in acceptance in the workplace. Millennials grew up as the center of attention. Mid-career GenXers in middle management don’t see as much need for group work; they desire to work autonomously.  Millennials also want to know detailed knowledge of strategic information, generally reserved for upper managers. They tend to reject the idea that information is provided on a “need to know” basis.  This drive to see private or privileged information can cause trust issues with older leaders. A marked commonality between the generations is that the generations are equally concerned about success and money.  Regarding a positive impact on workplace performance and team building, Millennials want frequent, open, detailed, and positive support from their managers. Leaders must use commonalities to build trust and interaction.

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