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Generational Differences in the Workplace

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C. Mathis

on 1 November 2014

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Transcript of Generational Differences in the Workplace

in the Workplace

We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.

Mary McLeod Bethune
Strengths? Weaknesses?
...It depends?
“Everything that irritates us
about others can lead us to an
understanding of ourselves.”
C.G. Jung

When I entered the workforce in my 20's (I am 43 now) it was expected that you work hard and
pay your dues
. People older than you with more experience were to be respected and learned from. I was raised with that expectation.

People just out of college now think they know more and that they don't have to work hard. Young adults grew up with a lot materially, and expect to continue to have that when they are on their own.

Respect is a two-way street but many businesses don't believe that. They still believe
"Put your head down and work hard."

Today's newer workers saw their parents do exactly that, and get chewed up and spit out by the companies they made so many sacrifices for, losing jobs and causing stressful periods of uncertainty, more than once in many kids' growing-up years. So this generation is thinking,
"What's the point?"
Millennials have had computers practically their whole educational careers. It absolutely affects how interaction happens, but not necessarily in a bad way. Other generations perceive it as a bad thing rather than working to adjust to it.
The expectation that people will, by necessity, need to have multiple careers in their lives makes them behave more transiently, and at times resist investing into any one skill, profession, or career path.
It's sage old advice, but listening and thinking before you speak goes a long way to building ties of trust, comfort, and ease.

If you're listening to or trying to talk to somebody and the whole while you're thinking,
"This entitled jerk really needs a good spanking and all his toys taken away!"
then, unfortunately, no matter what your age is, you're not contributing to the betterment of the situation.

You can create a lot of change, and it starts with the people you interact with every day: work family, immediate family, extended family, grocery store clerk.
What I find immensely frustrating based on the three Millenials that have worked for me, is this idea that they are doing us a favor by working for us. Rather than learning why we do things the way we do, they think *they* are there to teach *us.*

One kid would email articles to our VP about how the "
normal workday
" is a thing of the past or argue back when one of our clients complained about something, thinking the client needed to "relax," not that he owed an apology.
Millennials are great at identifying ways to use technology to improve workplace efficacy and productivity, However, older generations are too quick to attribute this to Millenials being selfish and not wanting to work hard.

At my old job I was expected to be on call and accessible by phone and email. I was told this on my first day and asked if I would be provided with a Blackberry, not because I wanted one but because I didn't feel it was right to use my personal phone for required work purposes. I was told I was being an
entitled Millennial
by asking for something only managers should be able to who have and that I have a cell phone anyway, so they shouldn't have to provide me with one.

A few months later they realized that was ridiculous and those of us required to be on call were each given a Blackberry.
Adoption of technology and change are the the biggest issues with older generations. When a new piece of software is introduced or a process is changed, they get very territorial towards their old ways/systems.
generational differences in...
upbringing, values
motivation, expectations
approach to "getting it done"
ways of communicating

At any moment in time, age group differences can be the result of 3 overlapping processes:
Life cycle effects.
The consequences of being a given chronological age.
Young people may be different from older people today but they may well become more like them tomorrow, once they themselves age. (liberal in youth, conservative in older age.)
Period effects.
The impact of an event on the people who live through it.
Major events(wars; social movements; economic downturns; medical, scientific or technological breakthroughs) affect all age groups simultaneously, but the degree of impact may differ according to where people are located in the life cycle.
Cohort effects.

The effect of belonging to a given generation
. Events and trends often leave a particularly deep impression on young adults because they are still developing their core values; these imprints stay with them as they move through their life cycle."
Baby Boomers
Born 1946 - 1964
Born 1920-1945
Generation X
Born 1965 - 1980
Millennials (Gen Y)
Born 1981 - (debated '95/'00)
Gen X
Gen X
Work is...
Communication & Feedback
View on
When working with them, remember....

Follow rules well; want to know policy & procedures.

Frustrated by what they see as a lack of discipline, respect, logic and

Less comfortable in relaxed or spontaneous workplace; prefer law and order.

Conservative in workplace; there to do the job.

Acknowledge their "time served" in the workplace and the value it brings
Want to hear that their ideas matter; Respond well to attention and recognition.

They were valued youth and expect to be valued in the workplace.

Their careers define them, their work is important to them; "workaholics" value hours put in.

Do well in teams; are
motivated by their
responsibilities to others

Don’t take criticism well
Want independence in the workplace.

Value outcome over process; value competency over age/seniority

Give them time to pursue other interests

Allow them to have fun at work

Want to know why it matters, how it fits
into the big picture and what impact is has.
Like workplace to be team oriented, interactive, supportive, structured yet flexible.

They expect to be treated respectfully despite age; Avoid parent/child dynamic.

Utilize their technology expertise

Provide rationale for the work and explain value it adds; turned off by having to do things just because "this is the way it has always been done" or to pay one’s dues.

Provide engaging experiences that develop transferable skills; reward extra effort and excellence
An obligation
A Long term career
An exciting adventure
What defines me
A difficult challenge
What I do for money
A means to an end
Respectful; Based on seniority, tenure.
Impressed; time and experience equal authority
Unimpressed, skeptical; Will test/challenge
Relaxed; will test but also seek out authority figures when looking for guidance.
Use formal language
Show respect in salutation/address (Mr, Sir, Mrs)
Less email, more personal interaction
No news is good news
Want private recognition, not fanfare.
Diplomatic, direct
Answer questions thoroughly, expect to be pressed for details
Get consensus, include them or they may get offended
Establish a friendly rapport; OK to use first names
Give something to put on the wall
Appreciate both hard & soft benefits
Blunt, informal style
Use email
Talk in sound bytes
Share info immediately and frequently (but don't micro-manage)
Has the potential to bridge the gap?
Freedom is the best reward; like time off
Emphasize “WIIFM"; tie message to results
Use positive, respectful, motivational language; don't talk down
Prefer e-communication
Be humorous, show you are human
Be clear about goals and expectations
Like to be given feedback often, they will ask for it.
Want recognition from others for job well-done.
The 4 Generations in Today's Workplace
What generations are saying about each other...
"I'm afraid of a world run by adults who were never spanked as kids and got trophies just for participating."
Anon via Facebook
I blame the parents. Sometime in the 90s, parents seemed to have become "helicopter parents." As a result, Millenials are the generation of "
every child is perfect and special at everything they do.
" No learning anything the hard way, or through trial and error.
EL, Gen X, Pennsylvania

Boomers are the ones raising the Millennials and then do the most griping about Millennials in the workforce.

I see it all the time with my mom. She gets so annoyed by some of the stereotypical things Millennials at her work place do, and then 5 minutes later encourages me to do the same things at my job.

LS, Millennial, Indiana
Pew Research Center, 2009 http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf
Processes at play...

Age % of SRA
Under 30 4%
30s 22%
40s 33%
50s 38%
60+ 3%
( Data borrowed from LEAP session, Pam Miller, UCB.
Primary source: 2008 SRA Needs Assessment)
Factors to consider...
Cultural background
Workplace atmosphere
Any others?
Accommodate things that aren't such a "big deal"

Re-evaluate your casual Friday choices

Agree to meet face-to-face instead of an email or phone call once in awhile
Suggestions for the younger workforce
Be engaged
Be vocal or your silence can be mistaken for disengagement. Speak up in meetings; bring a process improvement strategy to a supervisor.

Not every swing will be a home run but contributing ideas shows you are engaged and have productive thoughts.

To be viewed as viable future leadership, actively take steps to frame yourself as such. Waiting idly for assignments does not illustrate initiative and confidence.

Be aware (and very careful) at the line between confidence and arrogance!
Meet them half way
Get a mentor. Or two.. or three. Don't go it alone in the workplace. Make connections both in and outside your organization; it benefits your professional and personal growth.

Don't be afraid to say you don't know something. Always be open to asking older employees questions. When you ask questions, they will be less likely to think of you as an "arrogant, know-it-all kid." Seeking input from more seasoned employees shows you recognize and value their experience.

"Coat-tail credibility"
Align yourself with an individual already esteemed at your organization. Cite that person as your source for confirmed information (of course, with their 'ok').
No man is an
Suggestions for the older workforce
Change is good
"things are not how they used to be”
...but recognize try to find the "silver lining."

Don't let tradition hinder productivity or lead to negative perceptions.

It is possible to "
work smarter not harder.
Be Inclusive
Ensure younger and less experienced staff are part of opportunities.

Engage them, ask for their input, include them in planning and implementation.

Delegate more than mundane tasks to keep them challenged.

Give opportunities to succeed (or, if failure occurs, there is still a learning opportunity.)
Know Your Stuff
You have to work harder to appear knowledgeable to older employees because they don't think you have enough experience.

Knowledge is also one of the keys to creating trust.

People respect people they like, but more important,
they respect people they trust
"Younger Managers; Older Workers." OHS, 2005
69 and older
Late 40s - 68
30s to mid 40s
Around 18 - 32
MV, Gen-X, New York
JW, Gen-X/Millenial cusp, Arizona
JNS, Gen-X, Texas
MV, Gen-X, New York
PT, Gen-X, California
KAB, Gen-X, California
LJH, Boomer-X cusp, Tennessee
LS, 26, Indiana
Could it be that generations are used to identifying with each other a certain way in a personal setting and that carries over into the workplace?

Boomer boss with a Millennial-aged son at home, tends to interact with her younger colleagues the way she would with her own son. Possible?
Parent trap...?
Final thoughts?
Cira Mathis

Full transcript