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Quick Note on the Generation Gap

The Millenniasl are in, and so is everyone else!
A few semesters ago I wrote very long paper about the generation gap in the workplace.  I found a lot of the research I did to be quit interesting.  I read some articles, interviewed my wonderful boss, and a few other people of different age groups to get their take about other generations.  Here is a quick gist of what I found:

There are currently four generations working side-by-side:  Traditionalists, Boomers, Generation X,  and Generation Y (my generations).  Each of these four generations bring their own special kind of knowledge and expertise to the workplace; an organization has a very powerful tool when these four groups of people are able to build strong relationships and work together collectively.  This can be a very difficult task to accomplish in any organization because often times generations conflict due to the difference in their communication, perceived work ethic, technological skills, education and experience.

  • Communication:  One major cause of strained relationships between employees is poor communication.  Workers communicate based on their generational backgrounds and experiences.  For example, Generation X was shaped by a culture with instantaneous results an prefers a “cut-to-the-chase” type of communication, whereas a Boomer communicates in a style that aims to build rapport therefore a Generation X-er  might be perceived as too straight forward when communicating with a boomer.  In addition, using formal titles and putting things into a historical perspective will enhance communication between younger generations and traditionalists.

 

  • Work Ethic: Formality and work ethic also create tension among employees in the workplace.  Generation Y and Generation X are viewed as very optimistic and goal oriented; however do place high importance on leisure activities. Because younger generations place importance on personal activities and don’t live and breathe work, they are often perceived as distracted and lazy because older generations are very career oriented and are stereotyped to place their careers above the rest.  In addition, it is very important to note that younger generations are far more specialized in their skills; they can do one or two things only, but they do those things extremely well; my research indicated that experienced older generations know how to do “everything” and expect the same from their younger counterparts.  In my opinion, having specialized workers that have the right job fit are a more productive asset to their company.

 

  • Technology: This speaks or itself.

There are few other things I would like to point out:

  • Education and technological skills will never replace experience.
  • People perceptions are their reality.
  • And yes, younger people are less loyal to companies.
  • Younger generations typically like companies that are less hierarchical and political.
  • Older generations are less risk taking than younger which makes it difficult to land on a solid unanimous decision.

 

Managers have the responsibility of bridging this gap between their employees.  In my opinion the only way to get these generations to understand each other is to encourage interaction outside of the work environment.  Create activities that are not work related where employees can interact without the strain of working.

The generation gap is much greater than the small things I mentioned so please comment and share thoughts, opinions or experiences.

Below is link to an article written by Greg Hammil, Director at FDU’s Silberman College of Business.  There are some really informative charts that distinguish the characteristics of each generation, he also gives some great pointers to help enhance communication within age groups.

FDU Magazine – Mixing and Managing Four Generation of Employees

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Is it going to eat me?

The other night I called my dad on the phone, usually our typical conversations include the same old questions and comments about golf league, school, work, horses etc.  This time however, our conversation was much different.  This phone call mostly consisted of me crying and complaining about going to school and working too much.  I asked him what I should do because I love working and not having to worry about money, but my plate felt too full. 

My father who has been in a management position since he graduated college in 1982 is very good at settling my young naïve emotions and has never failed to provide me with good advice.  To answer my question he started out with a little story about an animal in the wild.  He explained that an animal in the wild has to worry about finding food, water, shelter, providing for their young and many times they have to go days without eating.  In addition, an animal in the wild also has to worry about being eaten by a bigger stronger animal on top of his basic survival needs.  After this story he tells me that he goes to work, often bombarded (probably due to playing golf) and feels like he will never catch up, however always seems to accomplish every task with 105% effort.  I made the connection where he was going with this but I let him explain on and make the connection himself.

This is likely one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.  He asked “Is it going to eat you?” To expand on this one-liner, if the answer is no then there isn’t a need to panic or stress over the situation. Simply organize your thoughts, put your work in priority order, get some coffee (in my case, accompanied by a bottle of creamer) and get to work.  You will be finished before you know it.   

I can apply this simple statement to any difficult situation which I am confronted with; it could be something like too much homework, too much work, or even something related to running, like a hill too steep.    When I am in a situation I ask, “Is it going to eat me?” if the answer is no, then bring it on!

I suggest to anyone who feels threatened by having to write a paper, read a textbook, or start a new project to ask yourself, “Is it going to eat me?” Likely the answer will be no, and coming to the realization that your actual life is not in jeopardy will take some weight of your shoulders. 

Why my blog and why me?

 Welcome to my first blog post!

Never in a million years would I have considered myself someone who would like to follow blogs, let alone start my own blog; however, since I joined my management class I have learned how much valuable information is out there in the blogging world (thank you Dr. Simmons). I have also come to realize how posting valuable information to my own blog can help me brand myself and put my name and image out in the world in a positive way, in addition to the vast array of learning that can be accomplished. This really excites me!

It was difficult at fist to decide what I would blog about because I do not consider myself an expert in anything except for surviving college and figuring out how to memorize an entire textbook two hours before an exam (which never really works). While contemplating if I should write about horses, running or school, I realized I could take this opportunity to learn something about my chosen career path, management, but mostly topics included in organizational behavior and human resources.

Currently I am a junior at UNR therefore the knowledge I have in organizational behavior is minimal and consists mostly of one class I took a semester ago and my own experience as an employee; however because of that one class and applying that little bit of knowledge to why my co-workers are acting the way they do (still not sure), I found my passion in OB.

I will be honest and say that I am not sure what will become of this blog, but I do know that there will be a lot of learning going on. I hope that my followers will post comments giving me advice or sharing their own past experiences related to organizational behavior or being a manager. In my opinion, when one considers themself an expert instead of a student, there will no longer feel the need to learn, and there is so much to learn!

I look forward to this adventure and sharing it with others!