11/06/2012 05:30 EST | Updated 01/06/2013 05:12 EST

How Gen X Will Lead Y in the Workplace

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It is becoming increasingly important for us to be able to work across generations in the workplace. The Boomers are starting to leave, but they're not all gone; Gen X is more than ready to assume more of the leadership roles, and Gen Y is getting antsy.

The stagnant labour market has not made this situation any easier. It has an adverse impact on internal job movement as well, further complicating the cross-generational relationships. We have to assume that in the next few years we will see a turn in the labour market. And when that happens, top talent will be on the move. And that top talent will be made up mostly of members of Gen Y.


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In keeping with that thinking, I am suggesting that as Gen X leaders, we keep these five tips in mind as we prepare to lead the Gen Y workforce:

1. Give them the rope to hang themselves, but be close enough to catch them

You have to be willing to empower them, and you have to let them learn from experience. The more opportunities that you give them to learn, the more you will see them hustle, Gen Y wants to make an impact.

2. Make their work meaningful, challenge them

Do not just dish out the rote work. Challenge Gen Y. They want to feel involved in what is important. Many Gen Y'ers probably believe they're ready to lead, but coach them and talk to them about getting time under their belt and the experiences necessary to lead effectively.

3. Maximize purpose

You need to find a way to maximize the purpose of the work that your employees do. Especially Gen Y. They tend to be more motivated by making an impact and having a broader purpose in the work that they do. You need to be able to draw out the connections in their day-to-day.

4. Don't be afraid to give feedback

There is the perception that Gen Y is soft and spoon-fed. That they don't take well to criticism. It is just that -- a perception. Do not be afraid to give them tough feedback. They need it. It gives them the opportunity to learn. And learning is what it is all about for this generation.

5. Learn from them

They are smart, they are motivated and you can learn from them. Be open to their ideas. Give them the space to voice their thoughts.

When the economic turn comes, roles will begin to open and movement in the employment marketplace will return to favorable rates. If you are a Gen Xer on the cusp of assuming a broader and more complex leadership role, you need to prepare yourself now for how to lead. And that requires that you understand how to motivate those in line to follow you.

Do not get stuck in the middle as a Gen X leader mastering a leadership style that only gets the approval of exiting Baby Boomers. Work also on practicing these five tips to lead members of Gen Y by building a bridge that crosses the workplace generation gap.