Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation(s) !!

Something has been bothering me for some time now.  When did we realize that we have generations in the workplace?  Haven’t we ALWAYS had people from various generations in the workplace?

It truly is disappointing that we have taken to labeling people due to when they happen to have been born.  For instance, technically by my birth year, I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  I more strongly identify with Generation X personally. But, I would have to say that, I have a touch of Millennial and whatever the newest generation is being called in me as well.

My Generation 45Any time I hear someone in HR bemoan the perceived weaknesses and challenges of a generation in HR presentations or on blogs, I hear The Who and their epic song, My Generation.

Roger Daltrey belts out ” People try to put us down . . . Just because we get around . . . Things they do look awful c-c-cold . . . Hope I die before I get old.”

The lyrics are indicative of how I think EVERY generation feels when they are shoved into a stereotype so that others can “deal” with them.  Tell me how this enhances a workplace?

I give a presentation where I bring out a vinyl album, a cassette tape, a CD and my iPod – all of the Beatles White album. (Didn’t ignore the immortal 8-Track, just didn’t have one anymore)  I ask a younger person to tell me what the LP is and the answers range from frisbee, to plate, to tray. It’s fun to see how things have changed.  What hasn’t changed though is the message !!  You see each form of music is just what each generation used to capture it, but the songs are still magnificent in each medium.  The same is true about people.  It’s just that WE need to look at it differently !!

It saddens me that HR even considers labeling people when we fiercely fight to not do this in every other aspect of our job.  I know Boomers who are more hip than Millennials and Gen X’ers that should have grown up at the turn of the 20th century.

Let’s do this instead . . .

We should value the diverse experience, culture, background and age of everyone we work with.  Learn who they are as people first versus categorizing them into some box that we think makes it convenient.  Quit assuming the worst of people and accentuate their strengths instead !!  People who know that you value who they are will automatically be engaged because the focus is on THEM and not their generation.

We work with a tapestry of extremely diverse people who bring an incredible breadth and depth of humanity to work everyday.  Any time that HR narrows this, we only lose out.  Refuse to be narrow !! Go against the norm and dive into the myriad of generations around you.

8 thoughts on “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation(s) !!”

  1. Amen Brother!
    To be honest I hadn’t thought about it very much, but I agree with your comments about “tagging” everyone. Regardless of our age, and I am at the front of the line of the “Boomer” group, people are people and if we think about people we have known and worked with over the years, there were those who had similar traits or personalities that are “generalized” over the Gen Xr’s, millenniums, etc. Despite my advancing years I truly prefer to hang with the younger crowd as they inspire me and help keep me young. Long live Roger Daltry!

  2. Steve you hit the mark!

    Coming from the co-author of Bridging the Generation Gap, too often folks want to stereotype individuals based on their generation, gender, culture, personality, disability, etc. The information that is out there to help you understand one generation versus another or one gender versus another or…(etc) is there to help you “UNDERSTAND” not label.

    We are human and everyone is unique. Use the information to help you understand why an individual may be the way they are but don’t use it to label them. Embrace what each individual brings to the table. Too often, we judge because someone is different than us and try to make them be more like us.

    In a Big Data World, HR has to learn to use the data to be more successful. Gather data about the generations, but don’t skip the data about the culture, society, gender, personality…on and on. We are human after all and each of us is and should be unique with different wants,needs, strengths and weaknesses.

    As HR people, our role is to help others understand this.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Having attended more than one talk on demographics in the workplace, I have asked the “experts” how millenials are really that much different from how baby boomers were in their 20s. They basically want the same things and find the same things important. Sure, technology has changed, but that doesn’t change their basic needs and wants in the various stages of life. Glad to see I am not alone.

  4. This is fantastic! Being a 28 year old working for Risk Mitigation/Employment Screening firm where 90% of employees are 45+, I see these challenges everyday. At first they were a little dumbfounded and frankly a little reluctant with these “radical” ideas I had about workplace atmosphere and creating an inviting culture to attract younger talent. Like you said, all companies has a very diverse group of individuals so we have to be open to new people, new ideas. Great Stuff!

    Bryan Snow Twitter: @BsnowLRG

  5. With all the research and talk about generations and their defining features, this is a great reminder not to lose sight of the unique person in front of you. We’re all individuals—not boomer or XYZ stereotypes.

  6. Well said, Steve! Unfortunately, people seem to dwell on the perceived limitations of each generation, versus thinking how to lean on the strengths…and to your point more specifically – failing to recognize that it’s not a black and white conversation.

  7. Thank you, Steve. Your comments were uplifting. In my current job search, I am definitely experiencing generational bias. What’s up with this formulaic approach to hiring anyway? In the end, people adapt to the format and present you with what you think you’re looking for. Personally, I want to show up as myself, with my experience and expertise, not as the latest version of what’s in in hiring. What about perseverance, the wisdom I’ve gained over decades of working with a diverse population and the respect I’ve gained from listening to others and gaining a fresh perspective?
    I’m still very much a part of this world, open to learning and wanting to make a contribution. I wish more people out there were willing to be open-minded. We’re not all automatons willing to be programmed to land a job and then have to deal with the stress and fall-out from accepting work we’re not suited for in order to “make it” out there. Living on the margins is preferable to inhuman conformity.

  8. The ignorance of youth. The idle mind of the elderly. The arrogance of …..

    We can go on-and-on with perceived differences but I would like to repeat something I was told many years ago – It’s all management. If a company needs everyone to be able to do XYZ, management should provide employees with the tools so that everyone can learn XYZ. Manage the process of learning – include everyone and remove assumptions. Be mindful of age but don’t discount someone simply because they are too young/old.

    Thanks, Steve.

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