Build Generational Awareness on Your Project Team

There are certain interpersonal skills that project managers must master in order to analyze situations and interact appropriately, as outlined in Appendix G of “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)-Fourth Edition.”

The skills include political and multicultural awareness. But, since the project team environment has evolved over the last 10 years, I think a new interpersonal skill should be required, not only for project managers but also for team members and stakeholders: multigenerational awareness.

Generations as cultures are based on invisible values, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions created by shared experiences and events. These differ across generations, and each will likely feel or behave differently in the same situation. The lack of cultural awareness may lead to a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the situation.

As a project manager leading a multigenerational team, you must know how to handle generational differences. Try to empathize with someone from a different generation and understand where he or she is coming from. Listen to the meaning behind words and interpret non-verbal clues rather than applying generational stereotypes. Focus on making that connection with individuals of different generations to build a meaningful relationship.

When your multigenerational project team disagrees, in my experience, it’s often because people are following those generational fundamental values. As the project manager, you need to assume a humble attitude and question rather than assert. Asking people to explain themselves before assuming anything shows respect.

Building awareness around generational differences in your project team can ultimately help avoid any problems. Encourage your team to:

  • Avoid making quick judgments of values. Try to understand the value and its historical reason. Values evolve as people live their lives in different periods of time.
  • Define a balancing act. Figure out how to manage different perspectives and different ways to doing things.

What are you doing to build generational awareness in your team?

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