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
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."
HYSTERIA HAS REACHED
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.
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
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
* 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."
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
Training Industry Magazine - Summer 2014