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Closing the Generation Gap

November 18, 2009

This is the first time that three or more generations have coexisted in the workplace and on Wednesday November 18, 2009, I attended the Charleston Young Professionals networking luncheon to learn about how the different generations think, work and live. I was somewhat disappointed to realize that I so perfectly am molded into generation ‘Y’! Some of the descriptors used are: driven, ambitious with high expectations, impatient, skeptical, blunt and expressive, image-driven, multi-taskers, preoccupied with maturity, and concerned with inclusion. Now, I don’t necessarily mind identifying with those adjectives, the workplace behaviors are what I was so shocked to perfectly fit, such as “questioning workplace regulations, do not plan on being at the same location for an extended period of time (averaging 1.8 years), need ‘friends’ at work, work hard and expect instant gratification, mentorship is important to this generation, and love training”. Now, if you aren’t sure what qualifies each generation, Baby Boomers are born between 1946-1964, Gen ‘X’ are born between 1965-1980, and Gen ‘Y’ are from 1980-2002. In the luncheon they expressed that there is some ‘gen-centric’ behavior that all generations exude in thinking they are the best generation, but the main focus of the panel was to explore how we can compromise our generational habits, find ways we can make our behaviors easier for different generations to understand, and therefore mitigate workplace conflict. From this session  I have realized in my own workplace that two of my coworkers are of Generation X and their workplace behaviors are typical of that. In particular “being independent, entrepreneurial, adept at learning on the fly, and don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about things or having meetings; they want to get in and do the work and move on to the next thing.” I’ve found that I have some workplace “conflict” with them as a Gen ‘Y’er because I look for mentoring and training from individuals who are more interested in learning on their own and therefore probably feel that I should be the same way. Since we are in the business of the online marketplace and our lives and work revolve around technology, I didn’t identify with needing to change my communication habits based on whom I was talking to, but I thought it was an interesting point. If your boss or executive is a baby boomer who isn’t necessarily technically savvy, he or she may not appreciate your emails, texts, or Skype messages. They may want you to call them on the phone or even come and see them in person. You may have to change the way you think about how to appropriately communicate based on how they work. It is also true that as an executive or boss, if you have a young team, you may need to learn how to Skype or text to make sure you stay on the same level as your team! Our team at WSI B2B Marketing, while being small, manages to contain employees from each of the generations that are in the workforce today. I have realized in one short lunch a few ways in which becoming aware of the tendencies of each generation can make me more aware of how to work with everyone.

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