Thursday, August 14, 2008

We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

img credit: chelseagirlphotos from flickr.

Generational Differences

I speak and train a lot on the topic of generational differences in the workplace, and it’s amazing to me how predictable people’s reactions to the topic are. If it’s a Baby Boomer audience (which most of corporate America is!), they come in ready to complain about the younger generation (Gen Y) – their lack of work ethic, their propensity for multi-tasking, their dress code and general lack of professionalism – and sometimes I fear that by association, as I am an X’er, I am going to be run out of the room, and/or fired!

Since there are never any Y’ers in the management ranks, they are never actually in the room in these sessions to “represent”, and even if they were, they’d have a hard time standing up for themselves without getting dog-piled.

But I had a good group today – at a major media company that shall remain nameless. They weren’t on their blackberries (the perennial trainer’s challenge), but listening, taking notes like good students, and asked great questions at the end. There weren’t a lot of what I would call “resistors”, so I got off easy this time
J .

The questions that came up at the end had to do with global issues (are generational differences the same everywhere? Yes and no …), my favorite which always comes up, which is “aren’t they just going to get older and grow up and mature into people like us?” (I don’t think so), and “aren’t companies just going to outsource and look globally for talent if US Gen Y’s continue to be so entitled?” (a big concern for me).

A good friend sat in the session, and is thinking about writing a book on parenting as a Gen X’er – how X’ers parent differently, and how their kids will bring a post-Gen Y mentality to the workplace – and this is fascinating because I think the Boomer parents have to a large extent raised Gen Y kids to be the problem children in the workplace – with all the attributes they dislike so much. They seemed to resonate with the quote I often use:

“We’ve seen the enemy, and it is us.”

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