Coping with different generations under the same company.

Having discussed about the distinctive characteristics of both Generation X and Y, we have acknowledged the inevitable interaction of young graduates having to work with significantly older colleagues in the workplace. However, many of us, as seen during the class discussion, were apprehensive on how the “generation gap” would affect the workplace climate and also, the tenacious challenge of deriving job satisfaction when needed to balance differing expectations and communicating with one another. Despite the lukewarm response of working with older colleagues, I have a fresh take on this issue to share with everyone and I hope to, perhaps, present to you a different and more optimistic perspective.

Before embarking further on this blog post, I thought that it would be more appropriate for me to iron out the definitions of the various Generations present in today’s society.

Traditionalists:   Born approximately pre-1946
Baby Boomers: Born approximately 1946 – 1964
Generation X:    Born approximately 1965 – 1977
Generation Y:     Born approximately 1977 – 1995
IGen:                   Born approximately 1996 onwards

The more relevant Generations involved in the discussion on workplace diversity and job satisfaction would be Generations X & Y.  I chanced upon an interesting video on Jason Dorsey, otherwise known as the Gen Y Guy. He focuses on solving generational challenges and his speeches have garnered him over 1000 standing ovations from the United States, capturing the hearts and minds of all ages. An interesting take away from this video clip is the ubiquitous mistake of our society for stereotyping and categorizing Generations.  Not only does this narrow our perception of people from different Generations, it hinders the route towards collaboration. Generation Y is known for having an appetite for big expectations but not knowing the steps needed to take us there, an important trait that Generation X has. Inclusiveness and collaboration, as espoused by Dorsey, are vital components to unlocking an immense amount of potential in a generation diverse team in the company.

Now, you may ask – why are more companies adopting the strategy of creating and nurturing the environment for creative self-efficacy and innovation? Does it not pander to the preferences of Generation Ys more than Xs? In my humble opinion, I feel that companies are looking beyond their employees’ Generation whims and fancies but rather, the general business climate that is increasingly dynamic and demanding. While it is a known fact that majority of Generation Ys have a strong sense of entitlement, routine tasks and the lack of acknowledgement for work done naturally reduces our motivation to work. Nonetheless, this sentiment is not pigeonholed in accordance to Generation, but rather, a common consensus amongst people. No one likes to be unrecognized and pushed to the background after putting in effort into a task, isn’t it?

The clip below is taken from “The Office”, an American sitcom that depicts the daily life of employees working under an incompetent boss in a highly unmotivated company culture. Personally, I enjoyed the clip and feel that it aptly captures the essence of motivation and job satisfaction in the workplace.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G59KY7ek8Rk)
The video draws reference to Alfie Kohn’s article, The Risks of Rewards, an insightful article that debunks the perception of rewarding. Similar to the TEDtalk video by Dan Pink who spoke on the topic: The puzzle of motivation, Alfie states that rewards (including monetary incentives) cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing and be less inclined to explore ideas.  Therefore, the question leaders and managers need to ask if not how motivated their employees are, but how their employees are motivated. More importantly, by capitalizing on Generation Y’s high need for self-entitlement, this strategy may cultivate hard working and reliable employees for the company.

In conclusion, it is advisable for employees in the workplace to view one another as value adding partners instead of discrimination based on differences in age and experiences. In addition to the usual call of duty, leaders and managers are also responsible for nurturing a workplace environment that fosters and nurtures employees to gain ownership of their work, which in turn, increases their job satisfaction.

Video URL for Jason Ryan Dorsey Video

Sources
Dorsey, J. (n.d.). The top 10 millennials & gen y questions answered. Retrieved from http://jasondorsey.com/millennials/the-top-gen-y-questions-answered/

Kohn, A. (n.d.). The risks of rewards. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/ror.htm

Schmidt, M. (2004, FEB 19). The three c’s of motivation. Retrieved from http://www.shininglightreading.com/kidstalknews/2006/02/three-cs-of-motivation.html

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