How different generations deal with feedback
Last updated on 27 February 2023
The aged care workplace has become increasingly diverse and there are now more generations of employees working together than ever before. From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, this diverse mix of generations can create a challenge when it comes to giving and receiving feedback.
Creating a workplace where feedback can be exchanged freely, especially between different age groups, is vital to cultivating a welcoming and productive atmosphere. A manager’s effectiveness as a leader can be gauged by their capacity to provide feedback to staff in a suitable manner and it is essential for them to be able to adjust their approach depending on the employee’s personality. Different generations have a contrasting way of communicating effectively and as a result will need a different approach when it comes to delivering feedback.
By understanding the differences and utilising some basic approaches, you can create an atmosphere of feedback which encourages open communication that works for people from various age groups.
Adapting your approach
When dealing with a diverse mix of generations in the workplace, it is important to take into account the different preferences for feedback and tailor your approach accordingly. There is no one right way to give feedback but for it to be effective you should customise your approach. Begin by understanding how different age groups respond to and prefer feedback.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) generally view feedback as a way to ensure growth and development. They value clear, direct feedback and tend to take criticism very seriously. Baby Boomers also appreciate feedback that is well-researched and backed up by evidence.
Offering positive, face-to-face feedback is essential for Baby Boomers. Providing constructive criticism in a respectful way is the most effective approach, allowing for guidance without causing harm. They also prioritise personal growth, so when offering comments, be sure to provide attainable goals and celebrate their successes.
Examples of how leaders can effectively manage feedback with Baby Boomers can be found in real world scenarios:
- Provide frequent but constructive feedback in-person to ensure Baby Boomers are aware of their progress.
- Use data to back up your feedback, such as performance reviews and results of goals set.
- Offer honest and direct feedback in a respectful manner.
- Make sure that feedback is tailored to the individual, and that their successes are celebrated.
- Follow up with Baby Boomers to ensure they understand the feedback and have taken steps to address any concerns.
- Encourage Baby Boomers to provide feedback on their own experiences, as they may have valuable insight.
- Encourage flexible working arrangements that accommodate changing needs and expectations.
Generation X (born 1965-1980) see feedback as an opportunity to improve and develop professionally. They prefer feedback that is goal-oriented and results-driven. Gen Xers also value feedback that is honest and open, and they prefer to receive it in a private setting.
This generation is best motivated by short-term goals that can be realised in a timely manner, as well as feedback that illustrates their contributions to the team and organisation. Frequent, constructive advice can help them understand their role and value, while also providing opportunities for personal growth.
Real life examples of how leaders can deal with Generation X:
- Provide clear and measurable goals for them to work towards.
- Use frequent and open communication to provide feedback and advice.
- Offer positive reinforcement for their achievements.
- Provide learning and development opportunities that are tailored to the individual.
- Encourage them to take ownership and responsibility for their work.
- Respect their need for work-life balance and provide flexible working arrangements where possible.
- Recognise and reward their efforts/contributions to the team and organisation.
Millennials (born 1981-1996) view feedback as a way to build trust and understanding. They tend to be open to constructive criticism, and they appreciate feedback that is solution-oriented. Millennials also value feedback that is timely and consistent. Given the frequent communication Millennials are exposed to, they may assume no feedback from their supervisor means they are doing a below average job. Consequently, it is important to provide consistent and small amounts of feedback to ensure the employee is aware of their progress. In contrast to previous generations, harsh criticism and negative feedback is not effective with Millennials, and may even drive them away from the job. Therefore, a constructive and helpful approach should be taken, offering guidance and support to foster learning.
Real life examples of how leaders can deal with millennials include:
- Provide regular and timely feedback – both positive and constructive.
- Speak directly and openly, while also being respectful and mindful of their feelings.
- Offer guidance and support, rather than criticism and judgement.
- Focus on solutions, not just the problems.
- Provide opportunities for growth and development, such as mentoring or professional development programs.
Gen Z (born 1997-present) view feedback as a form of collaboration with their colleagues and supervisors. They prefer feedback that is direct and actionable. Gen Zers also appreciate feedback that is tailored to their individual needs and goals. Given the constant exposure to communication platforms like social media, Gen Zers are drawn to more natural forms of communication such as face-to-face conversations, video chat, or event text messages when receiving feedback.
Gen Zers are accustomed to receiving feedback from their peers and supervisors in a variety of ways. They appreciate direct and actionable feedback that is tailored to their individual needs and goals. Gen Zers tend to prefer feedback face to face, video chats or even text messages rather than impersonal emails. They understand the importance of feedback as a tool for collaboration and growth. Flexible working arrangements such as remote work, have increased the need for digital communication platforms, furthering Gen Zer’s comfort level with receiving feedback in this format.
Managers can best lead Gen Zers by:
- Providing frequent and specific feedback during conversations.
- Asking questions to gain a better understanding of their individual needs and goals.
- Encouraging open dialogue and collaboration.
- Encourage them to take initiative and be creative.
- Utilising technology to communicate with them effectively and be trusted to work remote.
- Offer praise and recognition for their hard work and achievements.
Having an understanding of the differences between generations when it comes to feedback can help create a more effective and meaningful feedback process. To enable your organisation and team members to thrive, you want to deliver feedback in a way that helps your employees learn, grow and feel valued. This is why it’s essential to understand the different preferences for feedback for each generation and tailor your leadership style to foster a more positive and productive workplace environment.