As a leadership and workforce generations expert I’m often asked, “Are generational differences real?” Actually, people don’t often ask, they just offer their opinion. What’s the scoop with this idea of generational differences being real or not real?
Informally, without a survey or empirical evidence I would suggest that many supervisors, managers, and human resources team members are sold on the idea that generational differences are real. When it comes to the C-Suite my best guess is that only about one half of them are convinced.
Since I’ve researched, written about, and provided coaching and training on this subject for more than 10 years I’m compelled to offer my opinion.
Are Generational Differences Real?
Getting right to it, yes, they are real, but there are a few tricky elements connected to that reality.
One of the most common disconnects that I encounter is a lack of understanding about generational differences and differences based on age. Additionally, there are numerous other factors such as organizational culture, social economic conditions, family and espoused values, and geographic location.
Stereotyping is often problematic with generational differences. Differences in age, values, or beliefs might all be inappropriately targeted. Often we’ll hear things like millennials feel entitled, or baby boomers don’t like change, or generation Z (Gen 9/11, iGen) only wants to work part-time.
These are stereotypes and do not apply to all people who were born during a specific range of years. In addition, wrongful stereotyping might be the biggest cause of breakdowns in trust and respect.
Getting to the Root
Stereotyping, breakdowns in trust and respect; what is really the root cause of these problems? Most likely the problems originate in leadership styles, communication, and the product of both of those combined, organizational culture.
If you believe your workplace is suffering from generational differences, you must get to the root cause. Therefore, pointing out that differences exist is only a symptom of the problem. In most circumstances you’ll find the root cause buried somewhere in the organizational culture.
In conclusion, generational differences are real and in the simplest terms they are based on different values and beliefs.
Descriptors or characteristics often used to describe the attitudes, values, or beliefs of any given generation do not apply to everyone. They certainly apply to some, and likely to a majority, but definitely not to all.
You’ll probably find the solution for improvement exists in leadership styles and how they manage or embrace different values and beliefs. Communication and the ebb and flow of the culture will have a direct impact on the success of generational harmony.
So what do you think? Are generational differences real?
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.