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The Top 5 Inter-Generational Relations Blunders That Law Firms Make

Haserot_1 Phyllis Weiss Haserot is a leading management consultant with more than 20 years experience advising law and other professional service firms on organizational effectiveness. Her current primary focus is improving relations among the four generations in the workplace. Her recently launched blog offers an ongoing review of trends and developments affecting transition planning at law firms.

Phyllis recently sent us a short article entitled "5 Big Inter-Generational Relations Blunders" that offers valuable insights to firms struggling with generational divides.

According to Haserot, firms struggle with generational divides because they make these blunders:

*   Assuming that people of other generations have the same work life goals and objectives as you do.

While the generations share the desire for meaningful, stimulating work and opportunities for growth, the younger generations are very serious about having a life outside work and searching for “balance.” Their dual-centricity can benefit a firm, but managers need to be open to reinvention of traditional work structures and rewards.

*   Not recognizing the crucial need for orientation and dialogue among the generations on expectations, communication style and work style - upfront.

This only sets up individuals for frustration. Generational differences in work styles, communication, acceptance of change, flexibility, views on authority and loyalty, and expectations create troubling perceptions that are difficult to change later.

*   As a manager, expecting desired results and loyalty from Generation Y using a "sink or swim" approach.

Generation Y is used to a lot of attention and needs guidance, structure and feedback to work effectively. If they don’t get it, they’ll disengage and walk, confident they’ll find something better.

*   Accusing another generation of an "entitlement mindset" when each generation is guilty of that in its own way.

Who is the “entitlement generation”? Generation X and Y have been charged with expecting high pay, wanting perks and extra attention and demanding flexible work arrangements. Boomer partners, however, insist on high compensation regardless of market conditions, even if they have to fire associates to sustain it. Too many think nothing of saddling associates on short notice with late night and weekend work assignments.

*   Not recognizing the implications of differing views on teamwork

Boomers think team commitment means we all work till the work is done. Gen X identifies a unique role for each team member, who is done when their task is done. And Gen Y is accustomed to working in teams but asks, ”What’s in it for me?” Cross-generational teams need to set their own ground rules upfront.

*   Bonus Blunder: Assuming Baby Boomers are on their way out of the picture.

First of all, the Boomers are still in charge in most organizations. Many of them don’t want to let go, and they will reinvent their roles to stay active. Their knowledge and skills are still needed. However, their continued presence leads to upside down reporting relationships, which bring new complexities to the workplace.

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