Generational Differences: to hype or not to hype?

Posted May 31, 2012 in Communication, Latest News & Insights

I’ve recently been involved in a large scale culture change project with a company that is frantically trying to appeal to their rapidly shifting “Millenial” or “Gen Y” workforce.  It’s been an interesting exercise to be a part of but, as I listened to their key note speaker chant about how different this “new” generation is, I couldn’t help thinking “really? sounds alot like issues I can relate to!”.  Which, once again, got me thinking that all this hype around “managing different generations” is just that… hype.

I work with many, many managers in many different organizations.  The majority of them are GenX and early GenY with our mentor coaches coming from the land of Baby Boomer Inc and, in my humble “unresearched” opinion… one of the biggest challenges we have period as human beings is the overwhelming fact that most of us have been ill-equipped in the areas of interpersonal communication.  And, most employees AND leaders… regardless of their generation… are really looking for better, more open, communication.

And frankly, who can blame us for being so bad at this stuff?  It’s not like interpersonal and relationship skills are overemphasized in the school system.  Here’s a novel idea…maybe if we spent more time in school (from JK up) emphasizing our social skills versus our thinking and analytical skills, we’d all be better prepared for working together in a knowledge worker economy.

Okay, I have to get down off  my soap box now before I break my ankle.

Looking at generational differences is interesting, but as a colleague of mine said to me… we’re 96% the same, but what we focus on is the 4% that we’re different.

As leaders, where are you focussing?  On the differences between the people on your team  or the similarities?  If generational differences are causing your group “unrest”, maybe you should try taking a page out of “win-win” negotiations 101… start with where you have common goals.  Sure, generations may communicate their needs differently, but at the end of the day, dont’ we all want to feel valued at work AND get to enjoy our lives?

Happy leading!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One Comment

  1. HYPE – every generation looking back has the opinion that we are #*&@#ed. Has that ever happened? The bigger ballancing act comes as is that there are so many factors impacting leadership – globalization, economic, environmental, technology etc. Here is a blog we posted touching on this – http://www.spmlearning.com/leadership-development-series-times-they-are-a-changin