Generational Differences – Not Bad, Not Good, Just Different

An important characteristic of those whom you are coaching, educating, or leading whether you are a coach, teacher, or employer are generational differences. The students who are graduating from college are now entering a workforce in which there could be four or more generations working for the same company. This is challenging and at the same time exciting. However, it is important to confront two fundamental assumptions that each generation makes about the younger generations entering a given organization. Cam Marston, in his 2007 book, Motivating the ‘What’s in it for Me’ Workforce, highlights these two assumptions. First, the senior generation in an organization assumes that the younger generations will measure success the same why they did. Second, the senior generation also believes that the younger ones entering their organization should pay their dues and follow the same pathways to achieve success that they did. Regardless of the generation, success, time, work ethic, styles and types of communication, experience with technology, and self-efficacy are valued in different ways.

As a fifty-something, I am from the Baby Boomer Generation. I am coaching, teaching, and employing people who are generally twelve to twenty-four years old. This age group is defined as being the Millennial,  Y or Z generation depending on the source categorizing the generations. Regardless of how you refer to them, on a daily basis I have to continually attempt to adapt to their characteristics. Some of the more challenging elements of their styles for me are that while they are apparently good at multitasking, they are challenged to have an old fashioned, face-to-face conversation. Telephone conversations are just as challenging. Texting, Tweeting, and Snap Chatting are very important, and for some, the only forms of communication. They also give you the impression that their time is more important than yours. They seek convenience for them in things they do and there does seem to be a sense of entitlement among them. All these characteristics in and of themselves are not bad things. They are just different. However, the differences need to be managed and negotiated. We need to be very aware of the different lenses and filters that the different generations use when dealing with the world and people around them. It may also be useful to put these differences out there for discussion. Putting it out there will make all sides more aware of it, which in the long run will hopefully improve the opportunity for better communication and relationship development. Both of which are key to having a successful organization.

Categories: Coaching, Communication, and Education.

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