Happy New Year! Like many of you, I took a pause for the holidays–and a flu bug. I’m back and am excited to launch back into blogging about leveraging difference. For several weeks, I will focus primarily on gender and generational differences. I’ll hop back and forth to keep it interesting and will make some links between the two kinds of difference. I hope you’ll dive in with your comments and questions—and share what you’ve tried that works to leverage difference!
I was recently speaking to a trade organization on generational differences. After the session, one participant remarked that what she found most unique and useful was my focus on how styles of parenting have shaped the generations. People are shaped largely by what happens during their “formative years”—the first two decades of life. “What happens” includes historical events, developments in science and technology. AND cultural trends like parenting styles.
Here are some generalizations about the younger two generations in today’s workplace—and how parenting styles were one “cause” driving those generalizations. Note: a generalization may not describe YOU but it describes the average or most people in the group.
Generation X: The kind of parenting we Baby Boomers gave our Gen X offspring was not the Ozzie and Harriet parenting that we 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 “latch key” generation. They knew how to operate a microwave and entertain themselves. This is one reason the generation is characterized as independent and self-directed. It’s also a reason they reject the workaholic choices of their parents and seek “life/work balance.” And it’s a reason that 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), and praised them to build their self-esteem. Because of cell and other technology, they can get advice from Mom and Dad practically 24/7. As a result of the attentive parenting they received, this generation is very confident and 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 difference 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 work make you more accepting? Does it give you ideas to try at work to improve the functioning of multi-generational teams? Share how you’ve seen these differences—and what you’ve tried.