And, is it creating increasing levels of internal discord, customer dissatisfaction (or worse, loss of some of your highest spending customers, Boomers), and lost productivity through either high staff turn-over or time taken away from growing the business to handle conflicts?
Although consistent personnel and/or customer conflicts aren’t always generationally based, if you find that a majority of those in your company are consistently centered on the following issues:
- Communication style (high-tech vs. low-tech; formal vs. informal; individualism vs. team approach);
- Workplace expectations (work/service ethic; dress; career demands such as flex-time);
- Compensation/Motivation/Reward Systems...
But even if you have identified it as a generationally based, you have no clue what to do about it, right?
This 2-part series will get you started: Today in Part/Step I, I provide the basics you'll need to foster improved understanding of/between the generations; Next week's Part/Step II will provide a few tools for applying this higher-level awareness to your work-place generational issues, taking them from polarizing, to productive!
The Three Amigos (aka generations): an Overview
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Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): were the first “coddled” generation across the socio-economic spectrum. We tend to be idealistic, believe in self-improvement, and are known to be workaholics. We were the first generation to be raised with TV and computers, embracing & integrating them into the workplace. Dubbed the “me generation” for our self- consumption, we were raised to believe the world revolves around our wants/needs, some say without concern for how that may impact others.
Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976): As the first “latch-key kids” they grew up with fast food, divorced parents, and early video games (Atari, anyone?). They tend to value a strong work/life balance, are focused on the individual rather than the organization, and tend to be technologically savvy. Known as the “grunge” generation, Xers are considered to be a bit nihilistic, with a tendency to see the worst in things and people.
Generation Y, also called Millennials (born between 1977 and 1990): They have been using computers since they were children, tend to build relationships through instant and text messaging vs face-to-face, and expect to work at multiple places during their career. They’ve been nicknamed the “trophy” generation having been raised to believe that all accomplishments, no matter how minor, are deserving of a reward.
Here’s what all three generations have in common, often without realizing it:
- A need to see the value of their contribution to the company/end result: all prefer to work from a vision, a sense of being valued for their knowledge or specific skill sets, and like being a part of the decision-making process regardless of level;
- A desire to be seen as the best at what they do: don’t let the differences in the way they go about it fool you; Boomers may show this through working longer hours whereas Gen Xer's may look for better widgets or technology to get the job done better/faster, and Millennials may pride themselves more on their creativity, but all have the same pride in their end work product at heart;
- Appreciation for flexibility (how that flexibility is played out is where the conflict usually arises): here again style may overshadow substance, so it is easy to miss the way each uses and values versatility;
- They all want to know “what’s in it for me”: The Boomer “me” generation, the "individual over the company" Gen Xers, and the “everybody gets a trophy” Millennials, each have at their base the desire to have one’s own specific needs met, so once this, and those basic needs are understood, all can appreciate that in the other.
Next week: Step II - "Applying the similarities to make good use of the differences"
You have been officially alerted.