Local managers say they adapt their style to fit what’s needed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2014

Local managers who work with different age groups say they do adapt their style to fit each generation.
Jamie Morgan, CEO of the Rowan County YMCA, works with employees who range from teenaged lifeguards all the way up to part-time retirees.
“You definitely communicate differently with different groups,” Morgan says. “You really have to alter your leadership style based on who you’re dealing with.”
With younger employees, he’ll often communicate via text or facebook.
“You’ve got to figure out what your employees respond to,” says Morgan, a Gen X-er. “We have the full gamut of communicating. John Bouk, (who’s in his 60s), comes into my office and we hash everything out. With my sports director, Phillip Hilliard (who’s in his mid-20s), we mainly communicate through email and text. That’s just a difference in ages. Even John texts some now.”
Technology is most certainly a key component of his job. Morgan has told his staff he’s available 24/7 by text or email.
“If we didn’t have technology, I couldn’t do what I do now between the two locations,” says Morgan, who spends time at both the corporate office and at the J.F. Hurley Y.
Dari Caldwell is CEO of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. She started her career in 1979, and says at the time she worked a “ridiculous schedule.”
“At that time, the culture was, you really didn’t question things,” says Caldwell, who, when she was hired, worked an evening nursing shift with every third weekend off. But the thing was, she worked Friday nights on her weekends off for six months before she realized she shouldn’t be doing that.
Caldwell, a Baby Boomer raised by Traditionalists, has seen a shift in work-life balance by the younger generation.
“We have some younger physicians who are very dedicated and really care about their patients,” she says, “but they would sacrifice financially to have family time.”
She adds, “We are very respectful of our employees’ after-hours time. We really avoid trying to schedule meetings during family time.”
That attitude, she says, “has just caused us to shift things. The younger generations do ask questions and do speak up. There’s more creativity in the workplace. They want to make the world a better place. The challenge is that they don’t fit into the traditional work schedule.”
Caldwell says she wants to maximize her relationships with each generation. “As a leader, it is expected of me to adjust my style to work with the different generations. I’m a Baby Boomer, and we were the different generation. The intolerance to our generation made us more accepting of Gen X and Millennials. You catch yourself trying not to be critical because you were criticized.
Caldwell, too, has noticed differences in communication styles, and says she’s developed a “texting camaraderie” with many younger physicians.
She’s also found today’s management style is “much less dictatorial. It’s much more of a collaborative and collegial management, and that seems to be more effective.”
Kelly Withers says she has 1,200 customers, all younger than she. Withers is principal of Jesse Carson High School and says that the biggest difference among her students, faculty and staff is the difference in technological savvy.
“Our kids are digital natives,” Withers says, “and others have immigrated in. Teachers just out of school have also grown up in that culture. Anything after the past five years is a totally different culture than what it was.”
Withers has learned that each generation values different things. Years ago, she attended a workshop with her mother-in-law, Becky Withers, now a retired teacher. Withers is a member of Gen X, while her mother-in-law is a Baby Boomer.
“Her generation lives to work,” Withers says, “and my generation works to live. My generation looks for social rewards, whereas work itself was rewarding to her generation. You don’t consciously do that, obviously, but you learn where people’s motivation lies.”
Withers says her father worked sunup to sundown on his farm.
“He influenced me tremendously,” she says. “The work ethic piece stays with you. It’s just carried out in a different way.”
Withers started working in administration when she was 30. “There were people I was supervising who had been teaching 30 years. So you have to bridge that gap and find common ground. Each generation brings something unique to the table. You don’t want a staff that has the same perspective. There’s value in all of that.”
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.