Q: People often refer to each generation with its own name, but how many actually know the exact group the name refers to? According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Gen Z, iGen or Centennials are those born 1996 and later; Millennials or Gen Y are born 1977 to 1995; Generation X was born between 1965 and 1976; Baby Boomers were born 1946 to 1964; and Traditionalist/Silent Generation was born 1945 and before. But a 22-year-old hardly has anything in common with a 40-year-old, yet they are both millennials. How can this kind of stereotyping be helpful?
A: These individuals vary in generation, but also vary in specific age, education, job experience and gender, and they have all been affected by stereotyping, negatively and positively.
—A 29-year-old woman without a degree was never promoted despite her excellent performance reviews respecting her useful suggestions, efficiency and effectiveness.
—A 30-year-old man with an IT degree left every job after a year because he received menial or inappropriate assignments according to what his degree enabled him to do.
—A 35-year-old woman criticized daily by her male boss was always trusted to complete his work.
—A 37-year-old woman with multiple degrees in a male-dominated field was ignored or talked over in every department meeting, all her suggestions openly taken over by the men on her team.
—A 58-year-old man with multiple degrees was allowed to continue working despite his periodic insulting way of communicating to women.
—A 60-year-old woman with a doctorate and an impeccable work history was harassed for years by a colleague who was never reprimanded.
A: Though a generation spans 20 years, it's important to split a generation into "first wave" and second wave." Most would agree a 22-year-old who stays at the same level when he or she reaches 40 is in big trouble.
According to Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking, Inc., relying solely on the age categories for characteristics of each generation should never be applied simplistically, or overused as a short-hand or cheat-sheet for "how to manage people." Tulgan warns, "It is never enough to know a person's birthdate as a means to thinking you suddenly know all you need to know about a person, what that person is coming from, where that person is going and how to communicate to and manage that person. There are as many stories within each generation as there are people, so it is wise to be cautious when considering generational breakdowns." Using stereotyping as an automatic management tool can lead management down a dangerous path for both the company and the individuals affected in its path. If all individuals reacted and responded the same to each other, managing people and various departments would be easier. But that has never been the case, nor would companies net the best products, processes, and results on all levels.
Rainmaker Thinking has spent the last 24 years studying generational changes in the workplace to create powerful tools when used appropriately. The generational breakdowns and the generational lens are intended to: Aid in understanding the broad trends in attitude and behavior and expectations and preferences in the changing workforce, increase understanding and appreciation of generational differences from a diversity perspective, better understanding profound overall changes in the workplace and the workforce and help managers guide the youngest, least experienced people today because they are like "canaries in a coal mine" — and learning to where they are headed is important because we are in an era of such incredible change.
As reported in Rainmaker Thinking's, "Generational Shift," six different generations are working side by side in 2017, but just barely. In the last year, millions of First Wave Boomers and pre-Boomers have left the North American workforce, while millions of Second Wave Millennials have joined. The Boomers are on the wane; the Second Wave Millennials are on the rise.
The oldest of the First Wave Boomers have reached their 70s, and in North America, another 10,000 turn 70. The trends are similar throughout Europe and Japan. By 2020, First Wave Boomers will be under 6 percent of the workforce, and those who remain in the workforce will continue toward "reinventing" retirement and late-career pre-retirement: Working less than full-time, often partially telecommuting, and often working nonexclusively for more than one employer. At the same time, Second Wave Millennials and the soon-to-be post-Millennials will be the fastest growing segment of the workforce. By 2020, those born in 1990 and after will be greater than 28 percent of the entire workforce (including post-Millennials).
Email all questions to workplace and life coach Lindsey Novak at [email protected] For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.