Managing generations ? Start with gen X !

Time flows but dealing with multiple generations in the workplace is still a hot topic, even if many professionals admit that it’s been a bit overemphasized.

The young are old like any others

Gen Y, Z and others are X like any others but anything that backs this idea is often left untold. Of course they do have their particularities, like every new generation did before them but they nearly have the same expectations as others except that their elders said goodbye to it as time passed. But it’s surprising to see in the workplace young that are not that young and on the other hand Gen X or even boomers that have nothing to lose or win trying to disrupt the organization.

It does not mean that businesses must not adapt to their expectations but that considering generations through the only perspective of millennials is not the most relevant approach.

Common sense is not a matter of generations

First because if you ask the elder they will say barely the same things as the young. As a matter of fact, making the organization more liveable, responsive, less complicated, closer to the employees’ codes is not a matter of generation but of common sense. And common sense (as lack of) is equally shared among generations.

But there’s more. I often say that a Gen Y or Z is a Gen X that hasn’t said goodbye to their expectations regarding an organization that can’t propose them a kind of “career progression and lifetime employment against silence”. The most frustrated employees are not the young that are measuring the gap between how they see life at work and what it is in the real world but the elder that accepted to play the game, did not get what was promised and accumulated 15, 20 or 30 years of frustration.

Seeing a generation leaving is not a good thing

Today they are the ones who have key positions and the experience for such positions that others don’t have yet. They accumulated a significant know-how and  a deep knowledge of the organization they must transmit. Those with the most seniority are also the ones who personify and transmit the corporate culture.

For all these reasons, saying “if they’re so frustrated they just have to leave and make room for the young” is a very short term approach. Many businesses lost a critical mass of Gen X and boomers that prefered starting their own business or going freelance. That what a good thing for some of them who were at the end of their ropes but in many cases businesses a lot by losing employees that had still a lot to give. Transmitting knowledge, making a culture perennial, sharing values….requires people capable of doing it. When it does not happen anymore, the whole organization suffers.

So the real point is to care about all generations (so none in particular), knowing that those who need to be secured first are not always those we think.

Photo Credit: Fotolia

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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