September 10, 2010 at 11:44 am #110471
The topic of generational differences has been discussed to death on GovLoop but I thought this blog posting was rather good. Plus it has new research.
” I wonder when people are going to realise that this is not about Baby
Boomers, Gen Xers or Gen Yers (Or Millennials) having their own needs
within the corporate world. This is all about working styles; about identifying the strengths from one and another and make them work together
in a rather complex business environment where what matters is how
people collaborate and share their knowledge across to become more
productive at what they already do. Not whether one group of knowledge
workers belongs to this or that generation and therefore their needs are
different than the others. Actually, they may not well be the case
altogether. Those needs may be the same across the board. It all depends
on successfully combining and mixing those working styles to reflect
today’s complexity in our business world to get the job done.”
September 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm #110487
Believe MOST of the blog/commentary could be rather well summed up by this paragraph…
They either don’t care about or won’t obey corporate IT policies: Yet, every single business lives truly by their own corporate values and culture, as well as business conduct guidelines that year after year we still need to comply with. It’s part of the business. It’s probably part of work, too! Still, there is a huge difference from imposing corporate IT policies on your employees than to helping people understand the risks behind ignoring or bypassing them by encouraging them to shape them according to their needs and wants, as well as those of the business itself. To, eventually, co-creatively and collaboratively improve them in a rather open and transparent manner, so that they, too, feel part of that co-creation process of defining the company’s (IT) policies for themselves.
IMO the answer to this generation issue is rather simple communication & collaboration
September 10, 2010 at 7:32 pm #110485
I think there are work style variances within an organization, and the generations play into defining that to a point, but not exclusively. There can be departmental work culture differences that have nothing to do with age.
I had to work on a cross-functional, multi-department project before where it was a nightmare of unresolved work-style clashes. Collaborative, creative thinkers vs. black & white order takers/process followers. Dreamers vs. the ones who could not think in the abstract. Strict hierarchical workers vs. people from the flat-org world. Trying to have requirements discussions almost needed Cofi Annan to referee because the gulf between groups was so big. Of course, there was a pressing deadline so we did not get to truly form as a team first and develop any common ground, much less vocabulary, processes, or understanding. Project was delivered, but absolutely nobody on the team wanted to keep working together and animosities continue today because the people aspect was not managed. Every little bridge attempted was quickly disassembled in one way or another. What an ordeal nobody wants to repeat!
September 13, 2010 at 1:35 am #110483
Right on, Bill! My experience in a nutshell.
September 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm #110481
It’s mostly about strength in numbers. The U.S. in its history has not ever had a generation as large in population as the Baby Boomers. As a generation, they also don’t tend to agree on everything.
The Millennials, another large demographic, are pegged to replace them in the workplace when the Baby Boomers actually retire. That is why the Baby Boomers are interested in courting the Millennials for work and being so “accommodating” to Millennial needs.
On the topic of working styles, keep in mind that not everyone seeks collaboration as a goal. There are those in the workplace who seek only to assert their own goals and needs. They have no intention of being collaborative. They don’t want to “identify strengths from one another and make them work together.”
We deny generational differences, the needs and goals of each generation, to our own peril.
September 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm #110479
I don’t deny generational differences. I just question how much impact they really have when you consider the other influences on people such as the region they were born, their education, their cultural background, their religion, etc. To me the better approach is to treat people as individuals rather than try to assign them to a convenient category such as “Boomer,” “Type A,” or “ENTJ.” The categories may be helpful in fully understanding a person but relying on only one category is missing the total picture of the person. “What labels me, negates me,” as Nietzsche wrote.
September 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm #110477
I’m not too clear then on what is meant by a “working style.” The more self-awareness and group awareness individuals have of themselves and others, the more likely it is the workplace will be more productive with less conflict. Awareness is raised when people understand generational characteristics, personality types like the Myers-Briggs (how people process information, make decisions, find energy, etc.), and modes of conflict resolution (avoidance, collaboration, etc.).
The reason generations have been given attention in the last decade or so is that we’ve typically only had two or three generations in the workplace, not four or five generations.
September 14, 2010 at 11:14 am #110475
I agree that more self-awareness and group awareness is needed. And you are also right that understanding general personality characteristics is important. In the terms of the blog posting, working style is a combination of all those characteristics.
What I object to is the tendency for generational training to place people in neat little packages that easily identifiable characteristics. Then it is a matter of applying management strategy A to generation Boomer, management strategy B to generation X, and management strategy C to generation Millennial. Management by pushing the right motivation button.
September 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm #110473
Bill, I’m sympathetic to your viewpoint. The generational trainers I know are nuanced in their approaches and demonstrate in their lives that they don’t pigeonhole or stereotype. However, what the students are hearing is influenced by their own levels of anxiety and supervisory competence. Management by pushing the right button is not only emotionally unintelligent, but it treats people like things – it’s not only ineffective but wrong.
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