The Whole “Generational” Thing – Response


Thanks for braining up this list that Jamie Notter presented from the book Generations at Work. I think it’s dangerous to start listing liabilities and assets of the generational groups. When you make the jump from describing characteristics of a generation to describing assets and liabilities, you’ve inserted judgments. These judgments about generations are generally colored by our own biases or even our own generation.

For example, as a Gen X’er, I have often criticized Generation Y for the fact they have grown up in a world where they aren’t told they do anything wrong. They have been coddled and supported more than any generation in history. We commonly talk about the fact that they are the generation that has grown up with no winning and losing in PE class and instead, everyone is a winner because everyone all participated. This goes against my nature as someone who believes that healthy competition can bring out the best in people. So, I have been one to say that Gen Y isn’t equipped for the workforce because they don’t know how to take and use negative feedback.

On the flip side of this argument would be that Gen Y is equipped to succeed in a very different way than the generations before them because of their confidence. Since they have grown up with parents and schools that didn’t punish them for losing or failing, they don’t see failing as fatal. This means that they are more fearless with new things. They are more willing to experiment and test out new approaches because they aren’t as concerned about having to get things right every time. In many ways, they are far better equipped for our new rapidly changing world of technology and multimedia.

In my opinion, judgment is dangerous and borders on irresponsible, particularly when talking about generational stereotypes. But, I guess they need to sell books and give people like us something to debate about.

And to your comments about the Manifesto, I do think that it is definitely colored with our Gen X perspective. I think that the message underlying the manifesto definitely comes from the cynicism and skepticism we have developed as a result of our experiences growing up. The Manifesto is a handbook for organizations who want to evolve their workplaces to attract and retain not only Gen X but also the generations of the future. I’m not sure that the actual changes we call for in the Manifesto are specific to only Gen X, but our tone surely is.

What do you think?


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