The Generations: War or Prosperity?
- Each generation thinks the younger one behind it has it easier than they did.
- At successful organizations, the different generations acknowledge each other’s strengths and work together to deliver high-quality products and services faster, cheaper and more easily than ever before.
- If you’re at an organization riddled with constant in-fighting between the generations, you have to get out now.
When I go back to West Point for a reunion, there’s a common phrase I hear—“the corps has….” Basically it’s when old alums look scornfully at the young cadets, implying that the standards have dropped over the years and that the new generation has it a lot easier than they did. The old guard thinks Next Gen have their heads stuck in their smartphones all day, don’t communicate with each other, don’t have a work ethic and don’t want to put in the hard work before they make it big. Meanwhile, the current class is looking at us thinking we’re intransigent, inflexible, low-tech and resistant to change.
Ironically, we heard the same thing from our elders when I was coming up the ranks as a young cadet. So we’ve always had a war of generations, and it can get pretty tough with four separate generations in the workforce:
- Generation Z (born in the mid-1990s and just coming into the workplace)
- Generation Y (the millennials, the 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Generation X (those in their mid-30s to 40s)
- Baby boomers (in their late 40s to mid-60s, the eldest of whom are starting to retire)
With so much insecurity about global competition, inadequate retirement savings and job loss, we have a common business mindset now—creating value-driven growth through our products and services. It’s a global mindset. We have thinkers passionate about making a difference in the world. They’re more about making things happen than letting things happen to them. It’s more about being faster, bigger, cheaper and easier, because that’s the way of technology. That’s the mindset of generations today.
We’re looking at the high-level strengths of each generation and ignoring the differences. The diversity here is about thoughts and actions, not about each other’s faults.
What do you do when you find yourself in an organization that’s riddled with a war between the generations? Get out! You have to go look for another organization that’s focused on the client and on the customer, not on tenure and seniority.
So take that into consideration to see where you’re at in your development, in your organization and in your life, and make sure you’re working with and for people who understand it’s all about them (the clients or customers).
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Until next time, enjoy.
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