Forging Multigenerational Teams in Radiology

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon

A satisfied generation X worker is getting more than a paycheck—and is doing more than following instructions, according to Lisa Landry, MBA, MRT(N), Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit. Landry is a member of generation X, so she brought an insider’s knowledge to “Satisfying Generation X: Building Effective Teams and Promoting Consensus Decision Making,” which she presented on August 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the 2009 annual meeting of AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management.

Decentralized decision making is supported by the team concept, provided there is completely open discussion of which tasks are necessary, who will perform them, when they should be completed, and how their effects will be measured. Managers must be careful not to create a parent–child relationship with the team, aiming for interaction among adults instead and overcoming any urges to control the team.

Today, as the eldest members of the baby-boom generation reach retirement age, most of the people on the payroll of any imaging department or practice now come from that generation or from the two following generations, X and Y. This means, Landry notes, that employees from the silent generation (born between the mid-1920s and the mid-1940s), who may automatically bow to convention and authority and tend to accept orders without questioning them, are now rare, and most are approaching retirement.

Many imaging executives have considerable experience in working with the baby boomers who followed the silent generation into the field, but they might be less familiar with the needs of the generation X members who now constitute a large segment of their staffs. In addition, they need to understand generational differences in order to make functioning teams that can bring out the best in all working generations.

Landry says that ensuring the commitment of employees to the goals of the department/practice depends on the decision-making opportunities that those workers are given, with a team setting being the best way to gain their participation. An environment of trust that focuses on results (rather than methods) can help turn staff members into teammates who share an investment in the group’s success. In addition, she notes, effectiveness is boosted by having the team members first make group decisions to solve problems and then track the outcomes of their actions, making adjustments until the team’s initial goals have been met.

Building a working multigenerational team, however, depends on fostering a positive atmosphere (which also leads to greater job satisfaction and improved productivity). The goals of the organization are supported by strong relationships among the individuals within it, and those relationships, Landry says, are built on understanding. Because many executives have schedules too hectic to permit getting to know individual staff members well, it becomes necessary to generalize in deciding what employees can offer—and expect from—the organization.

One can, Landry says, use shortcuts in understanding one’s staff and colleagues. One of the most useful of these shortcuts is the generational membership of the individual. Expecting their complete adherence to a stereotype is not useful, but people from the same generation are nonetheless likely to have several things in common in their tastes, aspirations, strengths, and needs. Knowing these similarities can help a well-informed manager become a better guide and mentor.

Generational Characteristics

The baby-boom generation (born between the mid-1940s and the early 1960s) is characterized, Landry says, by materialism and by workaholic tendencies, with a drive to achieve and a generally optimistic attitude. Baby boomers question authority, but are nonetheless often impressed by people in positions of authority.

Generation X (born between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s) is highly focused on quality of life. This generation’s members are comfortable, both personally and professionally, with accelerating technological change, and they often express concern over global warming and the environmental impact of their actions at work and outside it.

Looking over the shoulder of a generation X employee while he or she works is likely to be interpreted as insulting, and rigid work requirements (with the exercise of authority for its own sake) are disliked by this group. These workers do best, Landry says, when they are informed of the outcome desired, but left free