“Generational Differences” offer opportunities, not excuses…

Last week, I visited with someone close to my age (40s) about people in their 20s. The topic of generational differences came up, and I was reminded of the pervasiveness of the current stereotype many of us have about people in their 20s:

Entitled, lazy, hyper-connected, always with the earbuds in, leaving work as soon as possible, doing the minimum necessary, always looking ahead to what’s next instead of focusing on the present, unmotivated, not loyal, etc.

(The following quote is excerpted from:  http://www.articlesbase.com/management-articles/the-myth-of-generational-differences-in-the-workplace-1231741.html#ixzz1AApecO3X

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution)

The shorthand used to describe the four generations that now make up our nation’s workforce goes something like this:

– The Silent Generation (born before 1946) values hard work
– Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) value loyalty
– Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) value work-life balance
– Generation Y (the generation just entering the workforce, also known as Millennials) values innovation and change.

Or, in terms of negative stereotypes, the Silents are fossilized, the Boomers are narcissistic, the Gen Xers are slackers, and the Gen Yers/Millennials are even more narcissistic than the Boomers.

It is both sad and exciting that so many opportunities abound to set yourself apart.  Many bosses close to my age write off Gen Y for the reasons mentioned above, and yet they CAN be motivated.  Some of the most exciting new businesses being started now are led by those in Gen Y (Heck, Ben Milne celebrated his 28th birthday last month with the national launch of Dwolla, the cheapest and safest way to move money and pay for services. He may be hyper-connected, but I don’t think he’s all that lazy.)  And there’s a certain amount of self-fullfilling prophecy to all of this, too.  If a leader has low expectations, they will certainly be met.

It all comes back to the basics of leadership: meet needs, build relationships, and provide meaning.  No one, of any generation, really enjoys, say, “vacuuming to the corners.”  But we can all be led to play a role in “comforting weary travelers by providing the cleanest hotel room they’ve ever seen.”

And now, I am going to go have coffee with Erin, a 20-year-old former student who is more motivated and hard-working than over half the 40-somethings I know.

Happy New Year – keep working hard.

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