Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Communicating with younger teams, part of Project Management Foundations: Communication.
I once worked for an organization that had a very traditional management structure. They knew that the traditional structure was getting in the way of attracting younger software developers. So they created a small group within the larger organization that was designed to run like a technology start up. It was like the old adage that you should be careful what you wish for, it might come true. The new group was mainly young developers. There were quite a few communication challenges between these young developers and their older project managers.
Here's what we found. The younger developers generally needed greater consensus. They would stretch out software design meetings until everybody had a chance to talk. This consensus building would confuse and often frustrate the older project managers. In their view, the decision was made when no one objected. If you disagreed, then you should speak up. No one usually solicits your opinion. So if you're a project manager working with younger developers, you should give everyone on the team an opportunity to voice their opinion.
If you're a younger team member, then you need to be aware that this practice might seem unusual to older project mangers. The next thing to keep in mind is that younger developers sometimes need a lot of structure. On this same project, there was a very talented young software developer. Some of the project managers wanted her to develop her skills so they gave her responsibility over a large section of the software project. They essentially said, "Congratulations" and shook her hand. From the project manager's perspective, they were giving her the ability to spot light her talent.
From her perspective, they were leaving her abandoned without any direction. This caused her a lot of anxiety and that confused the project managers who thought of this as a gift. Often, younger team members need a very clear path to the finish line. They can be just as creative, but they need that structure. If you're an older project manager, don't assume that younger members are motivated by absolute freedom. Where you might see lack of direction as trust, they will see lack of direction as apathy.
We also found that younger software developers did better in an informal environment. Often, older project managers see a bright line between work and play. You put on a tie and you go to work and then you go home and you have fun. The younger people on our team had an easier time mixing the two. So we found that with our team, if we mix some recreation into the work day, it would improve the overall productivity of the team. One area that was a challenge for younger developers was being too casual with one way communication.
These developers didn't distinguish much between texting and email. So occasionally they would email an inappropriately worded message. Something like a one line message that says, "Will do." If you're a project manager with the younger development team, you may wanna clarify how you want the team to communicate with stakeholders. Finally, we also found that the younger software developers were much more productive when we gave them a lot of praise. Everybody loves praise. Some of the younger team members seemed that they were doing a bad job when they weren't hearing it.
Praise is often hard to come by in an organization. Some of the older project managers were very stingy with their praise as a way to give it greater value. We found that strategy didn't work well with younger developers. We also found that some of the younger software developers thought lack of praise was the same as unfriendliness. So if you're an older project manager, you may wanna reevaluate how often you praise your younger team members. You might not wanna congratulate them for coming into work, but at the same time, you don't want their only praise to come in the form of five year bonuses or plaques.
Communicating with different age groups is usually not a serious challenge. The first step is to recognize that there are some differences. If you understand these differences, it usually takes just a small change in behavior to get a much better outcome.
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- Using formal and informal means to communicate
- Prioritizing stakeholder needs
- Listening actively
- Planning project communication
- Understanding leadership language
- Writing clear and concise project reports
- Learning how and when to say "no"<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.