When I do programs on generational differences, I talk about how styles of parenting have shaped the generations. People are influenced most by what happens during their “formative years”—the first two decades of their lives. Those influences include historical events, developments in science and technology, styles of entertainment and the heroes of the time. AND they include cultural trends like parenting styles.
I make some generalizations about the younger two generations in today’s workplace—and how parenting styles were one thing that shaped these generations. Note: a generalization may not describe YOU but it describes the average person, or greatest number of people, in the group.
Generation X: The kind of parenting that Baby Boomers gave their Gen X offspring was not the Ozzie and Harriet parenting they knew as kids. The birth control pill, “women’s liberation” and the rise in divorce rates made for major changes in the family. Many in Gen X were raised in two-career families or single-parent families (or rotating households). Mom and Dad were working long hours. This generation became the “latchkey” generation. They had a microwave and knew how to operate it and entertain themselves. This is one reason the generation is characterized as independent and self-directed. It is also a reason they reject the workaholic choices of their parents and seek “life/work balance.” It is a reason they seek friendship at work.
Millennials: The youngest generation in today’s workforce was raised by the latchkey generation and by Baby Boomers who delayed parenthood. The family was much more “child-centric.” Parents scheduled their kids in activities, protected them from dangers (both real and exaggerated by the pervasive media) and praised them to build their self-esteem. Because of cellular technology, they can get advice from Mom and Dad instantly. As a result of the attentive parenting they received, this generation is very confident but neither independent nor self-directed; and they need lots of praise. They have a very different relationship with their parents than did older generations and often involve their parents in work-related decisions.
Understanding differences enables us to move from judgment to acceptance—and choice. Does understanding how parenting played a role in how members of Gen X and Millennials operate at work make you more accepting? Does it give you ideas to try to improve the functioning of multi-generational teams at work? Share how you have seen these differences—and what you have tried.