Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2014 - (Page 13)

GENERATIONS @ WORK Upon hearing a statistic that 83 percent of millennials sleep with their cell phones, a baby boomer CEO exclaimed to me, who happens to be a millennial, "These people are from a different planet!" Vociferous feelings about younger generations have existed for thousands of years. Hesiod, a Greek poet active between 750 and 650 BC lamented, "The frivolous youth of today ... are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but [they] are ... impatient of restraint." GENERATIONAL HYSTERIA HAS REACHED UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS IN BUSINESS. In recent years, generational hysteria has reached unprecedented levels in business, with wide-ranging and concerning consequences. Indeed, the three generations in the workplace do exhibit some differences. For example, they differ in size, with 75 million baby boomers (1946-1964), 55 million Gen Xers (19651979), and 77 million millennials (1980-1999). Millennials often differ in education and are on track to be the most educated generation in U.S. history. But outside of demographic differences, there's little scientific support for differences in values or behaviors. MYTHS OF GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES For many studies purporting to reveal generational differences, their very design prevents such conclusions. Cross-sectional studies compare generations at the same time. For example, researchers might measure the importance of work by generation. One common finding is that boomers see work as more important than 'Xers and millennials. But this doesn't prove that generations are different - it just means that there were differences at the time they were surveyed. To verify differences between generations, researchers must conduct longitudinal research, following each generation over time. Research of this kind suggests that many socalled generational differences are simply due to life stage. One such study analyzed data from young adults between 1982 and 2007 (assessing baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials at the same age) and concluded that there was no increase in narcissism in recent generations. Therefore, although younger people can be more self-centered than adults, implying that millennials are any more so than previous generations is incorrect. GENERATIONAL HYSTERIA Believing in generational differences that don't exist is dangerous for companies. First, well-intentioned investments like training in generational understanding may not yield meaningful returns. Second, organizations are opening themselves up to risk of stereotypes and ensuing lawsuits. Stereotypes based on age (especially for protected classes of employees over the age of 40) are just as dangerous as race or gender stereotypes because they influence behavior. For example, if a new millennial employee is T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MA GAZ INE - SUMMER201 4 I WWW.TRAININGINDU S T RY . C OM/ MAGAZ I NE - D R . TASH A E U R ICH STOP HARPING ON GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES late to work on her second day, the boomer boss might conclude that she lacks work ethic and write her off. Research suggests that when employees are the victim of age-based stereotypes, they start to behave that way. THREE TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE GENERATIONAL BEHAVIOR * Squelching stereotypes: Make the decision to manage individuals, not stereotypes. The more we point out differences between generations, the more we exaggerate those differences. Reduce the temptation to assign a set of values or beliefs based on age and be open to understanding each indivudal. * Considering results first: When someone has a work approach that's different from ours, it's easy to pass judgment. Before you judge, examine their results first. * Practicing equal opportunity management: Research suggests that generations share the same values. Even though millennials might be brave (or foolish) enough to ask for flexible schedules or professional development, those things should be granted to everyone, regardless of their generation. What may seem like immutable differences between generations may be due mostly to life stage. The less time we spend harping on these so-called differences, the more time and energy we'll have to grow and sustain our businesses for all generations. Dr. Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist, speaker and author of "Bankable Leadership." Email Tasha. 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2014

From Where I Sit
Table of Contents
Guest Editor: Developing Emerging Talent Pipelines
The Inherent Inertia of Training
Stop Harping on Generational Differences
Learning to Live the Brand
Leading through a Merger and Acquisition
Organizational Change through Applied Learning
Influencing without Line Authority: A Key Skill for Virtual Project Managers
The Currency of Trust: The Difference between Flourishing and Floundering
Building Buy-in for Learning Investments
Sales Winners Sell Differently: How Selling Is and Isn't Changing
From Mind-Full to Mindful: The Intention/Instruction Intersection
The Implications of Organizational Forgetting
Casebook: ADP: Improving Sales Process Effectiveness
Sustaining Training's Impact
Managing at the Speed of Business
Becoming an Authentic Leader
What's Online
Company News

Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2014