There are many stereotypes about members of different generations. Baby boomers are stuffy and serious. X Generation are cynical and angry. Millennials are disloyal and flighty. None of these put any of us in a great light.
Of course these stereotypes do not fit every person, after all everyone is an individual. Unfortunately, though, everyone sub-consciously or consciously judges and is judged based on these preconceptions.
So what do people think about you?
As a Baby Boomer you...
- Expect everyone to be workaholic, just like you. You are out of touch and don’t like change.
- Are self-centered and can be judgmental of those with differing opinions.
- Don’t understand technology and too arrogant to learn.
As Generation X you…
- Are grumpy, cynical and skeptical, you lack people skills and dislike authority… unless it is your authority. Everyone needs to respect you.
- Don’t understand the optimism of Baby Boomers and Millennials and like to squash it.
As a Millennial you…
- Don’t like menial work and feel it is beneath you. You are entitled and impatient for reward and recognition.
- Are inexperienced but think you’re an expert after a few short weeks.
Do you recognise anyone? You? Your co-worker? Your boss?
There may be some truth behind these stereotypes, but they are just generalisations. Many of us are the opposite of what people may expect. The problem is, when we walk into a job interview or meeting, people are making snap judgements about us based on these stereotypes.
How to fight these misconceptions?
- Embrace change. Really shake things up and instigate it. No one will be expecting the Baby Boomer in the office to implement major change.
- Ask others for their ideas before offering yours. Encourage different ideas and opinions. Listen and don’t just write them off because they aren’t the same as yours. Don’t poo-poo every idea that is not your own.
- Though it may be tempting and maybe even a little fun, don’t always play the devil’s advocate. Come into meetings with a positive and optimistic attitude. Surprise everyone!
- Be aware that people think you’re going to be impatient, work on your communication and people skills. Take a breath and then respond. You don’t always need to say the first thing that comes into your mind.
- None of us like menial work but everyone puts in time and does things they don’t necessarily enjoy before getting to the next stage. Sometimes you just need to suck it up.
- Demonstrate to your boss that you have a career plan and make sure your actions tell a story of development.
- Show that you are willing to learn. No one is an expert after only 3 months. There is always more to learn and hard work, patience and perseverance tend to be rewarded.
For all our differences, there is more that unites us than divides us. We all want to feel valued, add value and feel as though we belong in the workplace. Being part of a team and contributing motivates most, if not all of us.
How can generational differences to improve your skills, create stronger teams and build success? If you are working with the difrerent generations view them through a different lens –
Millennials lack of experience can be an asset. The millennials in your team are free of preconceived and indoctrinated ideas, there is no “it’s the way we have always done it.” Use this to your advantage to get fresh and creative ideas for your team.
Generation X are often forthright, to the point attitude means that you can always know what a Gen X manager thinks of you. Ask them for feedback and you will get the truth. Use this to develop and learn.
Baby Boomers know how to work in and lead a team. Their ability to look at the big picture and break it down for the team into achievable tasks can be invaluable. Even if they don’t lead the team, their experience and contributions will have a positive influence on the rest of the team. They have done it before and have a lot of great insight to share. Ask for their opinion and listen to them – you might learn something.
The three managing partners of Chorus Executive each represent a different generation. It can at times lead to disagreements, with each of us coming from a different perspective. Yet, it is these different perspectives and different experiences that strengthen our team and our company. When there are disagreements it's okay. There is a foundation of respect and knowledge of the value and contribution each partner brings to the team. We have found ways to play to each other’s strengths and learn from each other.
Instead of letting generational differences weaken you or your team, use them to work better, learn more and develop. Diversity is a strength not a weakness. Use diversity to make you better, your team stronger and your company more successful.