How to Manage Your Small Business' Traditionalist Workforce

The Traditionalist generation, also known as the veterans and the silent generation, are all about building a lifetime career. They are devoted to a single employer and expect that employer to be loyal to them until they retire. It's likely that you have a Traditionalist (or more) in your small business. While they were born before 1945, these hard workers will continue to work until they can't. Unlike your Generation X and Millennial employees, however, traditionalist have much different needs and requirements.

Understanding the Traditionalist Generation
Traditionalists were born between 1922 and 1945, and those still in the workforce have extreme respect for authority. They will stick to the rules you give them, and they take pride in their work. In fact, despite their age, they're probably some of your small business' hardest working employees. They do, however, demand respect for the hard work they do, and they prefer to deal with direct leadership and a more formal work environment.

Unlike Millennials and Generation X workers, the Traditionalists are willing to sacrifice their personal life for their career. They take their jobs very seriously and are devoted to the company. In return for that devotion, they demand that their employers care for them, respect them, and show appreciation for what they do.

What Traditionalist Generation Wants from Management
Traditionalists are committed to always doing the "right" thing. Their decisions and actions are also always justified and logical. But this generation doesn't handle change very well; therefore, your small business' management should be cautious about implementing drastic policy changes, changing their schedules, etc. Also, Traditionalists prefer command-and-control leadership. They don't like the open or empowered environments, and prefer to have one decision-maker leading the company--and they do what they're told to do by the leader.

How to Manage Traditionalists More Effectively
By now, Traditionalists are likely to be in some sort of managerial or senior role within your small business. You need to appreciate their leadership skills and understand how a Traditionalist thinks. Some things you can do to manage them more effectively include:
  • Understanding that most Traditionalist leaders are "Type A" personalities, so keep in mind that their nature is to lead and expect to be followed. The workplace should be a learning environment, and establishing a mentoring program allows older employees to share their wisdom and suggestions while giving younger employees an opportunity to teach them about technology.
  • Be patient yet firm with your small business' Traditionalist employees. They respect authority, but don't like being pressured.
  • Clearly articulate your policies and procedures.
  • When you make changes in policies or procedures, do it gradually and assist them through those changes.
  • Casually coach your Traditionalists on their people and communication skills.
  • Respect the Traditionalist's work experience, life, and career.

Not managing your Traditionalist generation workforce in the right way could lead to a significant loss in leadership. You may lose some of your senior positions that you are not ready to fill. You can learn more about how to effectively manage all generations in the workplace in this blog post.

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions,a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

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