To reduce judgment about other generations, it helps to understand them — and why members of that generation are different from members of our own. One important factor in shaping generations is how they were parented during their formative years. GenXers are independent and self-directed and want “life/work balance” because their parents were workaholic Baby Boomers and they grew up in two-career families or families of divorce. Millennials are confident, but more dependent on advice and praise, because their parents protected and praised them.
Recent research validates my view that we cannot stereotype men and women. Studies show that men and women operate along a continuum rather than demonstrating distinct psychological characteristics. The study debunks the “Mars and Venus” view of gender and validates the DifferenceWORKS approach. Understanding differences in masculine and feminine approaches, in both men and women, can make us more effective and more inclusive — which is good for business.
Sandberg’s advice fits into a large genre of advice for women on how to succeed in the masculine workplace. She correctly says women need to appear more confident. The typical man speaks with confidence even when he is wrong; the typical woman speaks more hesitantly even when she is sure. While advising women to learn to speak more confidently, we need to encourage leaders to understand the gender differences in communication. Translate vs. taking literally. Bilingual cultures (inclusive cultures) allow women to feel valued and be engaged. That’s good for business.
I respond to a football analogy about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. My brother suggested most women don’t want to be at the top in the business world. Like a “tight end” on a football field, they should be happy with their role and not worry that they are not the quarterback. The point of Sandberg’s book is that IF a woman wants to reach the top, she should lean in. My point is that the playing field is not level. Lots of women who are qualified to be quarterback are held back and hold themselves back.
Common sense — and studies — confirm that engaged people do better work and are more likely to stay. Engagement is linked with retention, productivity and profitability. Feeling different — like an “outsider” — can undermine engagement.Spending energy figuring out the rules and fitting in takes energy away from quality and efficiency. In today’s diverse workforce, leaders cannot engage everyone the same. Leaders must understand and appreciate difference to have broad engagement.
I am in the business of increasing understanding, of reducing judgment, which gets in the way of inclusivity. It’s like light and dark. Light dispels darkness; understanding dispels judgment (which often exist below conscious awareness). Men and women judge each other; members of different generations judge each other. When we understand differences and why we are different, we can set aside judgment and find ways to work together. Understanding enables people to think and act more inclusively, especially if new ways of thinking are reinforced and one practices new behaviors.