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What are the defining behavioural characteristics and work-related preferences of Millennials? How do these factors shape our understanding of the most appropriate leadership styles and approaches to adopt when leading a team of Millennials?
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Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, has a wide variation in its age. Controversies about the boundaries assigned to this generation still continue. It is believed that the Generation Y started early (around 1977) or late (around 1981). The end of this generation is marked as early as 1994 and as late as 2002. The population of this generation has been estimated to be in between 70-90 million (Moorthy, 2014).
Armed with a diverse range of tools, they are considered to be the next ‘‘Greatest Generation’’. The crises (economic, environmental, geopolitical etc.) faced by the earth can be tackled by this great generation as they have an inclination towards a better future. Some also consider them to be ‘‘Generation Whine’’. It includes features like over-indulgence and protection of young people which makes them incapable of dealing with the mundane tasks due to lack of proper guidance. Still doubts regarding their difference from other generations exist. A self-proclaimed prophecy has been created due to the generation of media hype by them (Myers & Sadaghiani, 2010).
Both literature and press describe them as the ‘‘Look at me’’ generation due to their extra self-absorbed and self-confident behavior. Lack of loyalty and standard work ethics have also been found in them. Entry of Millennials into the workplace led to a rise in the speculations and concerns related to their behaviors and predispositions. The other generation members of an organization are affected to a great extent by them due to their communication skills and its orientation. The main focus of these concerns is on the ability of the Millennials’ in establishing working relationships with other staff, thereby, enhancing the performance of the organization (McGuire, Todnem By, & Hutchings, 2007).
Generation Y is the most diverse generation from the cultural and ethical viewpoint. Consequently, it has been argued that Millennials more easily accept the cultural differences like race, religion, caste, gender and economic status. They accept as well as embrace these differences. This acceptance is because of growing up in a more diverse society.
One of the most advanced characteristic of Generation Y is their technological savvy nature. The most glaring difference between millennials and other generations in the workplace is command over emerging digital world and the ease with which they adapt to changing technology. The year which marks the beginning of generation Y is also considered to be the birth year of internet and hence both are progressing parallely. The backbone of internet, TCP/IP suite got established in 1982, the year the first millennials were born. After seven years, AOL, the first portal with all the parental controls came up. At this time there were only about 500 sites available on the World Wide Web. The basic necessity of these days, cell phones also emerged somewhere around 1983, the growing years for millennials. The trend of social networking also flourished alongside this generation completely changing their outlook for the communication across the world. MySpace, Facebook, iPhone all belong to the same era. So this current workforce considers them to be the most internetworking and technologically aware generation. They easily communicate with others and are able to access information instantaneously (A.; Hershatter & M. Epstein, 2010). The extent of the level of technological involvement is blurring the line separating their professional and personal lives. Differentiation between work and home doesn't really exist for this generation as they want to be more productive and meaningful throughout the day and are ready to work from anywhere.
Technology directly influences the working style of Generation Y along with their attitude towards their work. They don’t associate much with their employing organization but attach more with the type of work they have to do. Also for them the organization is not the basic identifier. They prefer to be identified by the work. Long hours of working are not connected to the quality of work by them, thereby not telling their devotion to the employer. As it has already been mentioned, technological advancement forces helps them to work even when they are away from the office and still produce high quality results (Shirish, Boughzala, & Srivastava, 2016).
One of the major challenges that Millennials face is the difficulty in communicating with Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Scholars note that such problems arise because of the differences in the values, perceptions and communication styles that they possess. Such differences among the generations can sometimes lead to conflicts arising in the work place. Therefore, finding means by which values can be clearly expressed among and between generations is essential in establishing fully effective coherent workforce (Ramirez, 2015).
Generation Y firmly believes in improvement so take the feedback and advice from their superiors in appositive manner. While working, Millennials expect periodic directions from the managers regarding the evaluation of their performance. They understand the importance of education and knowledge for progressing in career and constantly explore for new opportunities to learn from more experienced generations. They take failure as an inspiration rather than a deterrent. So failure for them is an opportunity to improve their performance at job. The crucial requirement of Millennials is flexibility in work and career. They believe in doing more with less. As a consequence, they have a sense of feeling that they deserve the freedom so as to work for few hours even in the most challenging jobs. Generation Y believes in accomplishing any task in less time as compared to the time taken by other generations to complete the same task (Myers & Sadaghiani, 2010).
This generation Y focuses on the social aspect of work and believe in maintaining friendly relations with the coworkers thereby emphasizing a more supportive work environment (Ng, Schweitzer, & Lyons, 2010). The social needs of the Millennials are generally greater. Such needs include stronger peer bond and orientation as compared to Generation X. The importance of social aspect at work consequently has no influence on their amount of efforts at the workplace. Millennials therefore possess the qualities of being hard-workers, liable, team-oriented and altruistic. Their altruistic nature is attributed it to be influenced by family and friends. Also due to their mindset of being team-oriented, Millennials tend to demonstrate a management style which is inclusive of immediate feedback and lays emphasis on it. Additionally, an exceptionally higher level of self-esteem and assertive behavior has been shown by them as compared to preceding generations (Twenge & Campbell, 2001). They are also highly confident of their abilities. It has been stated that Millennial s prefer positive, frequent and direct communication in the workplace and also constantly gather information for easy sharing (Gursoy, Maier, & Chi, 2008).
Millennials prefer communicate openly and frequently with their supervisor thereby maintaining strong communicative relationship with the supervisors (Jokisaari & Nurmi, 2009). Moreover, it has also been suggested that Millennials find working together as a group motivating and prefer to work with others. However, Millennials are generally not intimidated by other people due to lack of experience and status and openly express their ideas, thoughts and opinions. Furthermore, they have high standards set for achievement, trusting their organizations and want organizational systems which support their development (Myers & Sadaghiani, 2010).
It has been observed that Generation Y prefers transformational leadership and employee involvement while entering into work careers. Transformational leaders refer to the ones who try and get involved with their followers. They make their followers more aware of outcomes expected from the work assigned to them, acknowledge their work related needs, and motivate them to perform better in the organization. One of the crucial characteristics of transformational leaders is their heightened sensitivity towards the needs of their followers. This helps them build a strong with their followers and encourages interaction between them. This way the followers also identify with their leader, and feel that their importance within the workplace as an individual entity (Bodenhausen & Curtis, 2016).
Millennials wish to work at a place where they are treated more than just an employee, a valued member of the organization. They always aim for superior goals and put in all the effort to achieve the same. They get motivated when they have someone to aspire them, receive support and mentoring from their seniors and have performance expectations. The concept of Contingent Rewards has been observed to be quite prominent among them. Thus, managers should promote involvement programs across the organization to get better productivity from them (Yang & Konrad, 2011). They prefer working in teams while maintaining their own identity and space. Implementation of team projects in the organization can help in achieving this leadership style. Team qualities are critical competency in the hospitality industry. Teams can be responsible for taking working related decisions and implementation of strategy for achieving the set targets. Working in teams can also serve as a system of support for learning and resolution of workplace problems (Bodenhausen & Curtis, 2016).
Millennials always aspire to improve with time and hence a system can be built that provides extensive feedback and opportunities to learn from the present experiences To flourish the members of Generation Y, leaders much set goals, motivate the employees with rewards and constantly mentor them because millennials like working in an environment with progressive linear paths and need the assurance that they are on the right track (Andrea Hershatter & Molly Epstein, 2010).
According to Cleavenger and Munyon leaders can adopt transformational style by simply getting involved with their employees in context of their about work, work related needs (Cleavenger & Munyon, 2013).
There are many ways in which millennials can be mentored for success without involvement of highly experienced staffers and investing much time. These approaches are accepted to best suit the mobile and collaborative lifestyle of this generation. The first approach is of reverse mentoring. Each millennial to be trained is assigned to an executive matching his/her needs. The millennial can closely follow the working style of his/her senior. This exercise gives them an insight into the higher levels of the organization, preparing them to better understand the business requirements. The second approach is of group mentoring. The organization sets up technology platform through which a senior manager can connect to multiple juniors working at different locations at the same time. It preserves resources and provides an effective way of giving feedback to the millennials. Technological platforms like community sites, forums, common cloud space, group chatting, video conferencing, etc. are used to achieve the task. Anonymous Mentoring is another approach for mentoring generation Y. It involves background reviews and psychological tests based on the collected information. It involves expert trainers from outside the organization. All the exchange of words and ideas is carried out online and the identity of both the trainee and the mentor is kept anonymous (Meister & Willyerd, 2010).
Generation Y or millennials form a huge part of the total work force these days. They are highly motivated set of employees who aspire to achieve more in their lives, are ready to work any time. They set high goals and work hard to achieve them. On one hand they are technology savvy, while on the other hand believe in maintain healthy social relationships. They prefer working in team but only maintain their own individuality. Transformational leadership style can be considered to be best suited to manage such workforce. They like constant monitoring, appreciation, rewards and feedback to improve further.
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