Bridging the Generational Divide at Work Using Diverse Thought
There have been many articles written over time about the challenges each and every generation faces when entering the workforce. You may have noticed that this conversation has become a huge topic over the last few years? Let’s take a moment to understand why. After all, this is the first time in history that we have 5 generations in the workforce… and as Millennials love to say, ‘the struggle is real.’
Millennials have received an overwhelming share of the generational spotlight, as they are the first generation to have each stage of their journey documented in detail, (welcome social media). The highlights, (or lowlights) often include the ‘disruption’ they have brought to the workplace. This intense criticism has propagated a negative association. So much so, that Millennials themselves don’t even want to be associated with Millennials! More often than not, we hear, ‘I am not THAT kind of Millennial – Millennial.’ Negative press combined with intense scrutiny has caused this generation to discard the badge of honor that comes with getting through your childhood, teens, 20’s and even 30’s as a ‘generational tribe’. The pride in your tribe that exists with Traditionalists, Boomers and Gen-X, (admit it, we are all very proud of our generations and our historical journey) all but doesn’t exist with Millennials in the current moment. That is disappointing.
I am Gen-X and very proud of the strengths and viewpoints my generation has and continues to contribute to society. Twenty- five years ago, when entering the workforce, I too felt ‘misunderstood’ and was repeatedly asked “Why is your generation so disrespectful, lacking in etiquette and always refusing to put in the extra effort your predecessors did?” Does this sound familiar Millennials?
Truth is, at that time, I had no idea what they were talking about. I often blamed myself for the characteristics of an entire generation. Taking such criticism to heart, I enrolled in a very expensive week-long etiquette class in Washington, DC. at the age of 24. To my horror, Ms. Manners was quick to point out I was indeed a heathen. No surprise there.
Recalling my own experience, it was actually easy for me to have abundant compassion for Millennials when the never ending negative press came started to roll in for generation. The reality is Millennials are the rainmakers of change-makers. Their generation shook the retail industry to its very core and brought popularity to grass roots movements. They made social responsibility cool again, and demonstrated that commitment to authenticity goes a long way.
Traditionalists and Boomers need to take pause and reflect on the development phase of their generation. I am confident you can recall many instances of elders labeling and categorizing you? Have you thought about the advantages you had, growing up without the 24/7 media shining a spotlight and encouraging public opinion regularly?
Gen-X'ers were the Guinea pigs of media propaganda at the beginning of media globalization and syndication, still had an extra layer of protection. Entering the workforce with their cynical personalities and “I really don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude, shielded them quite a bit from the initial exposure.
Millennials were conditioned from a very early age to be communal and work in groups. They were taught to focus on process and the effort put forth, rather than outcomes. It is both and blessing and a curse.
It is important for Millennials to keep in mind other generations (including new GenZ’s) were conditioned very differently. The Millennial collaborative process can easily be considered overwhelming or chaotic; causing them to withdraw, disengage, or worse, feel disrespected or discarded.
With communication and employee engagement issues at an all-time high, generational training programs are emerging as a valuable leadership development skill for organizations. Taking the necessary time to understand Why? each generation is the way….they are; is beneficial personally and professionally. In learning the events which shaped each generational, provides insight into the perspective of others, which eases tensions organically.
Check out our website, www.variegategroup.com, to learn more about The Variegate Group and how we introduce the power of diverse thought to combat unconscious bias.