Category Archives: Generational Differences

Cultivating Your Success

Recently, my partner and I purchased a new home. It’s a beautiful townhouse in a wonderful neighborhood, with an excellent homeowners’ association – the grass is always well kept and the trees neatly groomed. Just before we moved in, the real estate agency came by and removed the “for sale” sign, leaving a bald spot in the middle of the front yard.

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About six weeks later, I offhandedly mentioned my dislike for the grassless patch in the middle of the yard. My partner quickly responded with, “Well, maybe next year the grass will grow there.” Laughing, I said, “The grass won’t magically grow in that spot . . . weeds will! We need to put down grass seed.” It is really quite commonplace that we often don’t plant the seeds for the success
we long for in our lives. The amazing and amusing thing is that we end up disappointed by our lack of success!

Many young people come out of college, into the workforce, expecting to be in full bloom when they haven’t even prepared the ground—much less planted the necessary seeds. So, then, what does it mean to prepare the ground and plant the necessary seeds for success in the workforce after college?

The following are 3 “seeds” you can plant to help cultivate your later career success:

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  1. Reflect on your strengths – take time to ask yourself about your previous jobs, consider the tasks you really enjoyed, and those you did not. Spend time thinking about the sorts of jobs you really like, what makes you passionate, what you really love to do. If you are having a difficult time finding answers to these questions, begin exploring – try new jobs, or new tasks at your current job.
  2. Build a network of friends and colleagues – plan time each week to nurture your relationships. Take the time to go to networking functions and get to know people.
  3. Always do your best – it doesn’t matter what job you are in, do your best – your reputation for performance will follow you. Let the world know you will always give it your best effort, regardless of the task. As you try on new opportunities and learn about what you really like best, your reputation will help you get into those positions. Regardless of what your long-term goals are, it is important to lay the foundation for your success. If you do a great job with whatever comes your way, consistently follow through and work at nurturing relationships, the rest will take care of itself.

“Pay my dues? Why? What are you doing for me?”

As a generation Yer, you may have watched your parents or relatives work hard, demonstrate commitment, and sacrifice their personal lives, only to lose their jobs and/or pensions by right-sizing, out- sourcing and corporate scandals. Why, then, should you “pay your dues” to try to climb the corporate ladder – especially when you saw that paying your dues doesn’t always pay off!

Let me begin by suggesting that “paying your dues” has different meanings for different generations. While a Baby Boomer may define “paying your dues” as demonstrating a commitment to the company over time, a generation Yer may hear “paying your dues” as working 80 hours a week and putting the company first always. As generation Yers, we’ve learned what working 80 hours a week can do to one’s family life, personal life, health, etc. You’re not interested in giving your life to a company that does not care about you.

Is there a win-win solution– where you successfully demonstrate a commitment to your company – “pay your dues” – and feel empowered doing so? The following are five ways to demonstrate commitment to your company, while considering your future and taking care of what’s important in your life:

  1. Be patient with yourself and your company – So many times generation Yers come to me six months into a new job feeling anxious, hating the work and ready to jump ship to a new job, even though they don’t have a clear idea why they are leaving. Generally speaking, they do not really want to leave their job, but they don’t see a way to get what they think they “should” have as quickly as they think they “should” have it. As a generation primarily raised on television, where you see the beginning and end of every success story within an hour, you may not have a clear understanding of the hard work and dedication that goes into real life success.
  2. Each job is an opportunity to become clearer – about your strengths, your special talents, and your interests. While some seem to know exactly what they are good at and what they want to do with their life, most of us need time to explore what we’re passionate about, what we’re good at and what we love. Take advantage of opportunities to learn about yourself.
  3. Find a mentor – create a plan – If your company has a mentorship program in place, find a way to get involved. If not, approach your supervisor and ask if there is a way he or she can help you locate a mentor inside your organization. It’s very helpful to have a mentor in addition to the mentoring your supervisor may be giving you. Having an opportunity to build relationships with others inside your organization can be invaluable in making your capabilities known within the company as well as increasing your chances for promotion. Network, network, network! Taking the time to think through what you really want and sharing your goals with your supervisor and mentor is important – if they don’t know what you want, they won’t know what experiences to help you gain.
  4. Build a name for yourself – Through consistent achievement, and by making sure the right people know of your achievements. Yes, this does require that you share your achievements with others (go ahead and brag, it’s better than hiding your light under a bushel!). If no one knows about all the great work you’ve done, how will they know you should be promoted?!
  5. Keep Learning – Explore, ask questions, request new assignments, find a mentor, take advantage of training programs, get to know the context of your work – the “big picture,” read industry information, etc.

Almost two years ago I began coaching a 19-year- old (we’ll call him Adam) who had failed out of college three consecutive semesters. His father reached out to me in hopes of helping his son get on a positive track – he was very worried. When Adam first came to me he did not want to finish college and he didn’t know what he wanted for his future. Over the past two years, he has learned a great deal about his strengths/weaknesses, taken the time to face his self-imposed limitations, begun an internship in his field of interest, and is preparing for his next semester of college with an entirely new frame of mind.

The key for Adam was getting to know himself, his interests and making positive advances in order to do what he likes, long term. If you can learn about yourself, find what you love to do, and build your life around that, the financial and personal rewards, as well as the increased responsibility, will come. So many people force themselves to do jobs that do not fit their passions just to pay their bills. Don’t be one of them!

Be patient with yourself. Take time to explore, learn about yourself, generate a plan, build your network. You will have failures, certainly, but you will succeed in the end.

“What? You want ‘balance’? We’ve got work to get done!”

So many times I have heard this exact quote when talking with executives about their youngest employees. And so many just like them…

“They’re demanding ‘balance,’ and they’re not willing to do what’s needed to get the job done “who are these people “seriously!”

“When I was just coming into the workforce, I was lucky to have a job “I worked hard “I paid my dues — that’s how you ‘get ahead.’”

“Don’t they understand they need to prove their worth “demonstrate their abilities before they get promoted or get a raise?”

The truth is “they probably don’t know they need to demonstrate their abilities or prove their worth. Why would they? They grow up getting a trophy, even when they didn’t play in the game! By and large, the newest generation entering the workforce was spoon- fed, coddled, and now feel left to fend for themselves in the corporate world where the rules were set long ago “where they clearly do not understand what’s expected of them or how to get what they want. Much of the time, they don’t even know what they want “they’re simply acting out what they’ve heard they should want.

With many having had both parents working full time, generation X and Yers had less adult interaction growing up. They played sports only when ‘organized,’ rather than taking initiative to start a pick-up game. They missed the 1950’s rite of passage of having a paper route at age 11, likely not having their first job until they got to college. For many, their first job is right out of college. They watched an average of 30 hours of television a week, adopting the values of popular culture. Along the way, they missed the basic skills necessary in a corporate environment, like goal-setting, strategizing for their future, time management, and communicating outside email or IM! Instead “they grew up with a “faster is better” mentality “seeing the beginning and magical ending, but no struggle in the middle. They were told what to like, where to be, when to be there “they weren’t encouraged to think for themselves, explore who they are, or learn about facing adversity.

So, with this in mind, what can organizations do to retain and motivate generations X and Y “get them to perform and stop griping about things like “balance” so much? Here are 3 great ideas to get you started:

Don’t take them personally! When they say things like “I’m going to have your job in 6 months” and you’re a Senior VP of the company, recognize it’s not about you “they just don’t get it!
Don’t make assumptions about what they “should” know. When you see a gap, provide the training they need, either one-on-one or through formal programs. As a manager, sitting down with your young employees and helping them see the progressive steps in their career, will help reduce their anxiety and build loyalty “yes, they perceive you care! Also, providing workshops on time management, goal-setting, networking, and career management are very helpful.
Ask them what they want/need, and help them see the context in which you make the decision about what is possible to do for them. I have come into companies and facilitated discussions with generation X and Y employees to determine exactly what they want and helped generate a way to give them what they want while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Simply caring enough to ask them what they want makes a big difference “again, they perceive the organization cares about them!
When organizations can let go of “the way it’s always been” and become focused on the benefits of an engaged workforce throughout the organization, so much more can be achieved! I challenge your organization to listen to what your generation X and Y employees are asking for “and generate a plan with them to achieve your bottom line results.

Leveraging Generational Diversity

With 2006 underway and the Baby Boomers beginning their move into retirement, many companies are searching for ways to attract, retain and motivate the next generation of leaders. The more seasoned generations have an incredible amount of experience and expertise, while the younger generations are techno literate and eager to learn. The opportunities for collaboration and growth are tremendous.

The more seasoned generations have an opportunity to share their expertise and aid in the development of the next generation of leaders. Likewise, the younger generations have in front of them an opportunity to learn from the experiences of the generation that came before them.

That being said, why aren’t the more seasoned generations sharing their expertise and mentoring the youngest generations? Why aren’t the youngest generation employees reaching out for mentorship? Why are the younger generations jumping from job to job – from company to company? Why is there such a disconnect between generations? Why are companies spending so much money on training their new hires, just to turn around and watch them leave to work for other companies?

Fostering a work environment in which employees from a variety of generations can work in partnership toward the achievement of the company mission, grow together and learn from each other, while reaching their individual goals, requires awareness and understanding. Each generation has unique work ethics, diverse perspectives on work and life, distinct preferred ways of being managed, individual styles and unique ways of viewing such work-world issues as quality, service and showing up for work.

Managing The Generation Gap

Silent Generation:

  • Assets: stable, detail oriented, thorough, loyal, hard working
  • Liabilities/Challenges: inept with ambiguity and change, reluctant to buck the system, uncomfortable with conflict, reticent when they disagree

Baby Boomers:

  • Assets: service oriented, driven, willing to “go the extra mile,” good at relationship, desire to please, good team players
  • Liabilities/Challenges: not naturally “budget minded,” uncomfortable with conflict, reluctant to go against peers, may put process ahead of results, overly sensitive to feedback, judgmental of those who see things differently, self-centered

Generation X:

  • Assets: adaptable, technoliterate, independent, unintimidated by authority, creative
  • Liabilities/Challenges: impatient, poor people skills, inexperienced, cynical

Generation Y:

  • Assets: optimism, tenacity, heroic spirit, multitasking capabilities, technologically savvy
  • Liabilities/Challenges: need for supervision and structure, inexperience – particularly with handling difficult people issues

Ultimately, How Can the Generations Understand Each Other Better?

Employees from all levels and each generation within the organization must be formally trained in generational workplace dynamics. Once individuals from the various generations understand each other, they can discuss those differences openly, identify strengths and weaknesses, and successfully plan for the most effective way to reach desired goals.

When Silents and Boomers take the time to understand Xers and Yers, and Xers and Yers take time to understand Silents and Boomers, the respective contributions will bring extraordinary results.

If you and/or the leadership of your organization want to learn more about leveraging generational differences – or supplement the work you are doing internally – visit for information on our workshops and coaching solutions. Inspirion Inc provides workshops and one-on-one leadership coaching solutions that deliver results for people, performance and shareholder value.