Patty Gaul, Writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD)

Baby Boomers and Gen Xers aren’t too confident in Gen Y’s ability to lead, survey finds.

A greater number of Millennials are managing more senior generation employees. According to a Future Workplace/Beyond, The Career Network study, 83 percent of respondents have seen this to be the case. And while people have experienced this in their offices, it doesn’t mean they feel confident about it.

Forty-four percent of Millennials feel they’re the most capable generation to lead, but only 14 percent of respondents as a whole said so; more than half stated that Generation X employees are the most capable.

The low confidence level in Millennials may not necessarily be their fault. As Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace, said, “Millennials are moving into leadership positions and are faced with managing older generations, which they were never trained to do.”
This is reflected in the poll’s findings: 45 percent of Generation X and Baby Boomer respondents believe that the lack of pertinent experience on behalf of the Millennials “could have a negative impact on a company’s culture.” And it’s not only non-Millennials who are expressing concern; more than one-third of Generation Yers also said that it’s challenging for them to manage older generations.

Older generations have, not surprising, received more training in this area. Responding to the question “I’ve had enough training to become a leader at my company,” 47 percent of those 21 years or younger agreed or strongly agreed; 62 percent of those between the ages of 22 and 33 answered yes; 65 percent of those aged 34 to 50 agreed or strongly agreed; and 67 percent of those aged 51 to 70, and those older than 70, responded in the affirmative.
Overall, respondents to the study listed the following as their greatest leadership strengths: my ability to work well with others and build a great team, my communication skills, and my ability to build relationships. The greatest percentage of respondents felt that executive mentoring, leadership summits and other events, and job shadowing would help them improve their leadership skills.

According to an August 2014 U.S. News and World Report article, younger managers of older employees would be wise to ask for—and listen to—feedback, adjust their communication style to better balance it with others’ styles, learn the ropes of what it takes to become a manager, find a mentor, and learn about their team members.

More than 5,700 individuals were polled for the Future Workplace/Beyond, The Career Network study. Future Workplace is an executive development firm focused on reimagining the workplace; Beyond, The Career Network helps professionals find jobs and advance in their careers.

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