How to effectively manage multiple generations in the dental practice

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How can you successfully be a “Gen Mix” manager? That’s the big question in Bruce Tulgan’s and Carolyn A. Martin’s book “Managing the Generation Mix: From Urgency to Opportunity.”

How can you successfully be a “Gen Mix” manager? That’s the big question in Bruce Tulgan’s and Carolyn A. Martin’s book “Managing the Generation Mix: From Urgency to Opportunity.”

Why do you need to care about properly handling a mix of employees of different ages Because the American workplace now spans at least four generations. The Senior (Tulgan and Martin call them the Schwarzkopfers) Generation (born before 1946) is mostly retired; Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are moving into retirement but still in charge in many offices.

Behind them, Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1977) are moving up the corporate ladder and Generation Yers, often known as Millennials (born between 1978 and 1989), are establishing themselves in the workforce. Next up, Generation Z, which is loosely defined as the group born beginning in the late 1990s. This new generation will ultimately number nearly 80 million, according to the U.S. Census.

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How well members of these various age groups work together can have a big impact on your business. Alexandra Levit, CEO of Inspiration at Work and author of “Millennial Tweet” and “Success for Hire” ( warns that there’s plenty of room for misunderstandings between colleagues of different generations.


  • Levit finds that Baby Boomers tend to gripe that Millennials have:

  • A sense of entitlement

  • The belief that they can run the company right away

  • Over-involved parents

  • Unprofessional appearance and conduct

  • Brazen communication style

  • She says Millennials, on the other hand, tend to complain that Boomers and Gen Xers

  • have:

  • A desire to preserve status quo

  • A desire to hold them back

  • Sporadic communication

  • Inefficient processes

  • An inflexible environment

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In “Managing the Generation Mix,” Tulgan and Martin make the case that to successfully manage workers with these different concerns and expectations, the work itself must be as meaningful, challenging, and varied as possible … and it should offer everyone opportunities for growth, learning, recognition, and reward.

Tulgan, founder of the management training firm RainmakerThinking Inc., ( is author or co-author of 15 books. Martin is a Rainmaker trainer and author.

They see your job as Gen Mix manager as twofold:

  • “To ensure that everyone understands that ‘the work’ is what unites them and that collaborating to get lots of great work done every day is why they’re here.”

  • “To help everyone understand that talented people of every age are unwilling to contribute their creativity to directionless organizations or teams where they produce less value and receive less credit.”

How can you ensure that you succeed in that role? Tulgan and Martin recommend that you:

Appreciate the attitudes and behaviors of those of other generations. 

  • Make adjustments in your own attitude and behavior in order to communicate and work more effectively with those of other generations.

  • Focus on the common ground - the work you have in common - and build mutually supportive relationships with individuals of all generations.

The two suggest having group conversations in which employees are encouraged to discuss these questions:

  • What do I have to offer in terms of experience, talents, skills, and knowledge?

  • What is the one area I want to improve on during the next quarter?

  • What can co-workers offer me in terms of coaching, training, and mentoring?

  • What outside resources are available?

Levit focuses much of her attention on Millennials, which is now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population. She finds that the Number One thing they want is meaningful work. She’s also found that:

  • 89% want work to be social and fun

  • 66% want to hear from the boss once a day

  • 90% expect on-the-job training, a say in decisions, and access to cutting-edge technology

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To get them started on the right foot, Levit recommends encouraging constant learning, being as flexible as possible in customizing schedules and assignments, and providing frequent and constructive feedback.

One of the trickiest situations in any office is when one of these younger workers is hired or promoted to be in charger of older colleagues.

In such cases, “sit down with the younger manager upfront and let him/her know to beprepared for some resentment. The younger manager should go out of his/her way toshow deference to the older employees’ years of experience, and seek input frequently onthe best way to handle things,” Levit says. “Respect has to be earned gradually.”

Whatever your unique mix of employees, it’s important to maintain strong communicationacross generations. Consistently tuning into the needs and wants of all of your employeeswill make them much more productive and likely to stay.

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