So we each have a label – whether we like it or not. Depending on the year you were born. If it was before 1960, you are an angry Baby Boomer, before 1980, you are one of the “Lost Generation X”, before 2000, a lazy, entitled narcissistic Millennial and after 2000, a member of the spoilt, phone-addicts of Generation Zee.
A lot of the theory makes sense, I guess, since people are influenced by their upbringing – the times, the circumstances, the values and the technology that was around when they were children. Their parents’ dreams for them, how over or under protected they were, the messages that were passed on to them about their own value and purpose in life.
The Boomers, they say, are legacy creators. They worked their entire lives, have built large corporations, changing the world. They think in words and are clever at language and conversation – they had Latin at school and will correct your bad spelling in emails and reports. Allow them to talk things out and have patience with their long, detailed e-mails.
X’ers are doers, driven by money, work and a need to be in control. They are independent entrepreneurs, waiting patiently for the Boomers to leave so that they could get on with the job. They love pictures, technology and whiteboards (they invented Power Point!) and are not necessarily clever at conversation. They can’t understand why people can’t think for themselves and share the Boomers’ irritation with Millennials.
Millennials are adapters. They are labelled as entitled know-it-alls, asking for a raise in their third month of employment. They share their lives on social media, need interaction, constant recognition and feedback and a flexible, interesting work environment. The work force has to take notice of them simply because they will constitute 50% of it in 2020.
Generation Zee have grown up in an environment of global terrorism and have an innate fear of being alone. Long conversations (or long emails) stress them out and technology is their soothing mechanism – what you may call a smart phone addiction, is simply their lifeline. They are text savvy and need face to face communication – or video meetings.
There are several approaches to accommodating generational diversity in the workplace. The most obvious is to be everything to everybody – to provide a spectrum of technology and communication tools to keep every cohort happy. This could lead to silly solutions, says social scientist dr Mary Donohue. A typical example of an unauthentic working-together-solution is an enlarged picture of multi-generationals jumping in the air like high school children, pin stripe suits, stiletto’s and all.
The time has come to see people as people, with similar needs but different reactions and ways of doing. Doing the generational shuffle, means going forward, backward and sideways, knowing yourself, knowing the other, and making a decision to meet the other person where he or she is. Communicating heart to heart.