Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Comment on "Youth Is Different Now" (@GovLoop)



Comment: 
I appreciated this post but am not sure about the premise that us old folks (Gen Xers and Boomers) have trouble appreciating the contributions of Millennials. What's clear to me is that we greatly appreciate those contributions and that's why we work so hard to recruit the next generation into government and to incorporate what they have to say about making improvements.
As an Xer, the parent of a Yer and having worked with Yers a few observations. On the plus side:
  • When they are focused on a goal they work tirelessly.
  • They are competitive in a positive way - the competition is mostly with themselves, to excel or succeed in their chosen field or hobby.
  • They have an incredible ability to organize social networks quickly around virtually any cause, project, or initiative. (Actually GovLoop itself is an example.)
  • They know how to allocate different team members to different functions.
  • They trust one another and work well together.
  • They understand formal authority and know how to adhere to the chain of command.
  • They don't feel constrained by past traditions.
  • They have a great ability to use visual media to get the point across, and will subject virtually any process to improvement through technology.
Gen Yers tend to get along well with Baby Boomers also, I think because Boomers are more clearly in positions of authority and can help them advance. Like Boomers, Yers also see work as inherently a team effort. The difference is that Boomers build consensus more slowly and deliberately whereas Yers tend to have less patience with people from different generations...this is where some of the demoralization comes in as Yers want to move forward while Boomers want to be sure that consensus has been reached (even if it's not real consensus, they strongly believe everyone should at least express their opinion.)
Where some of the conflict surfaces is between Xers and Yers. There are probably a lot of reasons for this. One of the most basic is that Xers tend to see themselves as battling heroic odds to get an impossible job done. Xers work well with other Xers, as long as the territorial lines are clearly drawn - and they will pursue the mission tenaciously. On the other hand, Yers see work as only an aspect of a larger social grid called "life," and they don't relate to the individual focus at all. In addition, Xers are very good at identifying problems independently and innovating to fix them, whereas Yers (in the workplace) prefer to have someone tell them what to do first, or give them the green light. 
This is probably the single biggest issue between the generations at work - understanding the unspoken rules that govern the initiation of work. Boomers want employees to be self-starters, but they also want employees to check in and do things their way, which creates some lack of clarity for both Xers and Yers. 
All of this is made more complicated by differences in class, race, and gender because there are very marked differences in how various demographic groups approach work.
To give an obvious example more elite Yers have more of a sense of entitlement, probably because their Xer parents were determined to do better than their Boomer predecessors and so did everything to ensure they "lacked for nothing." 
Another example might center on gender. I'm not totally clear on the differences between Yer females and Yer males but one thing that stands out is that the females actually seem more achievement-oriented than the males - in the sense that they more avidly pursue traditional degrees, etc. while males are more comfortable checking out of the system till they feel comfortable with the track they're on.
It's funny, writing about it it seems more simple and clear, but in the day-to-day it's easy to lose sight of things. Miscommunication is so often simply a result of having been raised and socialized in a different time or environment.

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