Sunday, March 15, 2015

Generations Colliding

By Ann Meacham
Right about the time the Boomers learned to work with Gen Xers, the Millennials became more prevalent in the workplace.  Many of their co-workers and managers shake their heads when they try to figure out how to best work with them.

It might help to understand that the Core Values of each generation are created based on people and events that were significant in their youth. Consider these representative comparisons: 1

Millennials (1981-1999)
Gen Xers (1965-1980)
Boomers (1946-1964)
Influential people of their impressionable years
Harry Potter, George W., Mark Zuckerberg, Diana, Princess of Wales, Michael Jackson
Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Dilbert, Madonna, Michael Jordan, OJ Simpson
JFK, MLK Jr., Nixon
Beatles, Rolling Stones, Gloria Steinem

9/11, terrorist attacks, school shootings, Hurricane Katrina, 1990s Recession, cyberspace
Berlin Wall, Lockerbie Scotland, latch-key kids, Starbucks, divorces, Chernobyl
Watergate, sit-Ins, desegregation, Suburbs, Woodstock, Kent State

Most Important Invention
Tablets, smart phones, laptops, social media, texting
Personal Computer
cell phone, video games, smart phone, tablets
Television, Space Exploration

Time for themselves, flexible hours, career path options, be an entrepreneur
Freedom, respect, acknowledgement, career flexibility

Money, title, recognition, corner office, career security

Optimistic, innovative, technological, ecological collaboration
Self-sufficient, skeptical, resourceful

Competitive, achievement, “me” generation, anything’s possible

“It is therefore understandable that the stereotypical ambitious Boomer workaholic may be critical of one who does not share the same ethics and values. The independent Gen Xer may not appreciate the team orientation and desire for seemingly constant feedback. At the same time, the social-minded Millennial may not understand the priorities of other generations… A wired, connected world is all that Millennials have ever known.“2

Effective ways to engage Millennials:
  •  Teach them the expectations of our organizations in a way that makes sense to them.  Hierarchical organization structures can cause them to disengage.
  • Respect them for what they offer and give them opportunities to earn trust.
  • Understand that they are willing to work hard and long, and they also want work with meaning and a work-life balance.
  • Have a strong brand, clearly articulated vision, strong purpose, shared values and clear career path options.
  • Recognize the value they can bring to the business: technology skills, ability to innovate and a high level of comfort with change.
  • "Show your willingness to try new approaches" 3

The oldest Millennials are now 34.  How are you making the most of their talent and drive?

Ann Meacham, president of Leadership Dynamics, works with business owners and executives to clear their blind spots so they can identify the issues that need to be addressed and focus on making their business succeed. 
sign up for a Free Strategy Session or email her:

1 Lancaster, Lynne and Stillman, David, “When Generations Collide”, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2005
2 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, “The Millennial Generation Research Review” 2014
3 Beverly Jones, Clearways Consulting, Washington, D.C.

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