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Alive Magazine - The Generation Gap

Alive Magazine - The Generation Gap

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Published by Mitchell Hislop
An article I wrote about the generation gap in the workplace, from the perspective of a Gen Y
An article I wrote about the generation gap in the workplace, from the perspective of a Gen Y

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Published by: Mitchell Hislop on Aug 14, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Alive Magazine : The Generation Gap

8/14/09 12:05 AM

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The Generation Gap
by Mitch Hislop Prior to writing this article, I read through more than 1000 RSS feeds that I had collected over the work day, went through my email accounts for work, school, my blog and then my personal email. I dug through the more than 4000 songs on my computer, and found what I wanted to listen to. After letting the world know what I was up to by updating my Facebook and Twitter profiles, I finally opened Word and went to work. But instead of working at the office, I was at my dorm office, typing away on my MacBook. That morning, I had texted my boss to tell her that I would work from home in the morning and then go into the office after class. And I’m fairly normal for our generation. I am a Millennial. Currently, here is a debate raging on in the workplace. People in the baby-boomers generation and Generation X criticize Millennials. They often say things like “They are lazy,” “They don’t have any loyalty,” “They are always playing on the Internet,” and “Why do they always text message?” There seems to be an expectation by older generations that Millennials will be exactly like them. But we Millennials have our fair share of complaints as well: Strict office settings, top-down leaderships, not enough technology, and not enough flexibility. Our generation does not work the same, and with the Millennials set to be the largest generation in the workforce, this generation gap needs to be addressed. I asked Terese Corey Blanck about Millennials. She is the director for strategic partnerships at fahrenHEIGHT360, an entry-level talent management firm in Minneapolis, Minn. FahrenHEIGHT360 exists to try and close the gap in the workplace, through coaching, consulting, recruiting and other services. Terese is the resident expert on Millennials, and has written a book on the subject. In a conversation I had with her, she laid out for me four sometimes problematic characteristics common to the Millenial generation. She identified these issues as our lack of reflection, our impatience, our lack of humble confidence and the fact that we seem to not really know ourselves. This list got me thinking. I feel like I am pretty successful in work and school, yet I demonstrate most of those characteristics. Are our definitions of success and effectiveness really that different? What differences are keeping this generation gap open? I am concerned that Terese feels that our lack of daily reflection is an issue. I completely agree with her – while older generations perhaps place a high value on traditional, behind-a-closed-door, sitstill reflection, most Millennials cannot take the time each day to sit down and reflect. However, instead of reflecting through sitting down and thinking or journaling, we reflect through doing. This leads us to the same end – self-discovery – via a different path. A while ago I decided I wanted to get into politics, but never thought much about a career. I took a job at the beginning of summer 2008 at fahrenHEIGHT360, and realized that I actually love marketing and social media. Originally the job was just going to be something interesting for the summer, yet it turned out that it was a passion of mine that led me to work more hours than I was getting paid for. That realization didn’t come from reflection on a daily basis, but from being tuned in, plugged in and letting my passions guide me. I would recommend this tip to any Millennial: Whether you journal on a regular basis or not, use your daily life to discover yourself. Try new things. Take chances. You might find something that you love. Impatience is also something that plagues the Millennial generation. Older generations did not grow up with all the high-speed technology that Millennials have, and so they have a higher tolerance for the slower lifestyle than we do. Most Millennials are constantly tuned it, plugged in, and going 100 mph. The impatience stems from the lifestyle many of us lead. I usually chuckle in class when the teacher asks us if we would check our email once a day. My email is constantly being checked, to the tune of 40 times in an hour. It doesn’t matter if I am not getting anything new in my inbox; I am just waiting for a big, important email to arrive and cause me to jump into action. The impatience also leads into the lack of reflection. While there are some Millennials who do sit and reflect, many people in my generation cannot. We are going all day, and most of the night.

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Alive Magazine : The Generation Gap

8/14/09 12:05 AM

However, I never thought that this was a bad thing. Terese is right when it comes to short-term impatience – it may negatively affect us in the workplace. On the other hand, impatience is a double-edged sword. It can lead to extreme productivity if harnessed correctly. My suggestion to Millennials is to customize your job description. When I started, I was doing cold calls. I knew that was not where my talents lie, so I asked my boss if I could stop calling and instead pick up another project. She agreed, and my productivity skyrocketed. Most of this burden lies on the individual though – make sure you are doing what you love. There will be spells that you must do work you don’t want to, but do it with the same passion you would do any work, and the issue of impatience disappears. Terese’s third point hit really close to home for me. I tend to be very cocky, and I lack humble confidence. This problem is not prevalent in all Millennials, but many do show it to some degree. We always think that we know best, and I think that this point is the one that leads to much of the friction between the generations. When I reflect on the complaints I’ve heard regarding Millennials, I usually get defensive and figure out why that person is wrong, or if they are just grumpy or afraid of change. Looking deeper, I have realized that it is my own inability to admit that I am wrong. This is the difference between the generations – older generations tend to be a lot better at taking feedback than Millennials. I often bring up issues that I see to my bosses. I always walk in thinking that I am right, and I usually leave feeling the same way, no matter how the conversation went. If we can start to be more open to two-way dialogue and give and take feedback, like other generations do, the tension in the office will start to decline, and more progress will be made. This all funnels into Terese’s final point, which is that we really don’t know ourselves. She contends that Millennials don’t know what truly makes them happy, and that is what leads to all of the jumping around, the short attention spans and the overt lack of humility. I agree. A lot of us are still undecided in our lives, goals and aspirations. The “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question fails a lot more than it gets an answer. If you had asked me at the beginning of last summer, I would have said I wanted to be a career politician. Now, a Social Media Specialist. Tomorrow, maybe a pro footballer. I don’t feel that this is a bad thing though. It just means that we have not finished growing – and considering that we are in our teens and twenties, I think that most of us are right on track. There are things that both sides can do to help close the gap. Millennials can realize that they still have a lot to learn, and can listen to the older generations. Most of them did not get to where they are by luck, so we can value and learn from their experiences. Millennials can learn to admit when they are wrong, utilize life experience as a reflection tool and work with employers to have high levels or productivity. The older generations will hopefully realize that our differences are not so bad, and that Millenials bring things like creativity, ideas and a completely new perspective to the table. Published November 24, 2008. All rights reserved.



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