And if you tell that to the young folks today…

 Mar 26, 2014

“And if you tell that to the young folks today, they won’t believe you.”

It’s the sign off from one of the most quoted Monty Python sketches ever – The Four Yorkshire men. Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman sit around smoking pipes, talking about how difficult their respective upbringings were. They dismiss each other’s tall tales in turn with “lookshury” (Yorkshire pronunciation of luxury) and then try to trump the previous storyteller by becoming more and more farfetched as they try and outdo each other. All right, so here goes Tim again losing another couple of of audiences with his obscure quotes from yesteryear. But before you tune out, this whole blog post is about generational difference and the four generations that are comingling within Australian businesses today. Every generation will see and experience the world differently to the one before – even if it is only slightly. So many songs, books and movies have been written about generational difference and with the technological change of the 20th century, generational difference has become more and more profound. I often hear the question in our Management and Leadership courses, “How do I deal with Generation Y? I can’t seem to get them off Facebook and remain focused.” But are Gen Ys that different? The funny thing is that apparently the ‘‘ was asking similar questions about the ‘‘ back in the late 60s and early 70s (not that Facebook was around then either, but maybe they had a transistor stuck to their ear). That’s a lot of jargon. Let’s see what it all means and why some problems are consistent between generations despite the obvious differences. The Silent Generation was born during or before WWII. They are generally stoic and put up with a lot. There are still some in the workforce because they either don’t want to retire because they gain purpose through their work or they need to work for financial reasons. The Baby Boomers were born in the post-war population explosion that happened between 1946 and 1964. The first of three waves has retired, but there are two waves that have not. These people are often in senior management positions or hanging onto their jobs for as long as possible because their retirement funds were decimated in the Global Financial Crisis. Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is strewn across all positions from senior management to average workers. They are often the ones who are asking for strategies to deal with the cohort below them, but also how to engage Baby Boomers who wish to ‘cruise’ until retirement. And finally, we get to or Millennials as they are sometimes known. These are people born between 1981 and 2001 (the latter date being 9/11; a point where the world had a definite change). According to numerous newspaper articles and texts, these are the spoilt generation. They have never really had to struggle for anything and they are hard to get focussed because their attention is often in social media. My issue is that yes, whilst I have come across many people from this cohort that fit the stereotype, I have also come across many Gen Ys who are very diligent and dedicated. These generalisations are akin to saying all Americans are like this or all men are like that, and yet racism and sexism are some things we abhor in our society. Whilst it is true that Generation Y has had some very specific happenstances in their growing process that have shaped them, as I mentioned before, there are some similarities they share with the Baby Boomers of the late 60’s. Just like the Boomers who are complaining about Gen Ys now, they had the Silent and Veteran (pre-1929) Generations shaking their heads in dismay. Rather than heaping people into generations based on birth date, what is needed is a way of dealing with them as individuals. Finding ways to engage individuals and get the best out of them is more likely to give you results than pinning a label on a person because of birth date and not understanding their individual motivations. In my next post, I will suggest a few ways to do this.  

PS: A Glossary

Facebook (for the older generations) is a social networking site on the internet where people keep in touch with friends instead of actually being in touch with them. A transistor (for younger generations) is like a clunky version of the iPod except you could not program it with songs you liked; it would only play AM radio. The internet (for the older generations) is…

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About the Author:

Tim Higgs  

Tim has been involved in the corporate training industry for over 15 years; seven of these have been as the Portfolio Manager and Senior Facilitator at New Horizons. Tim holds a Graduate Diploma (Psych/Couns), a masters’ degree in Cultural Psychology and a bachelor’s degree in Business, giving him a unique theoretical backdrop for understanding human performance in the workplace. This complements his actual experience of working within the corporate sector in sales and management positions and owning and running a small business. Having worked with individuals and groups in both clinical and business settings, Tim has a fantastic insight into human behaviour, motivation and the issue of human change.

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