June 4, 2009
The care and feeding of your sweeping generalizations
At the place where I work we get a monthly wellness newsletter. It’s published by the Wellness Council of America, and sometimes its advice strikes me as relevant and helpful, if not necessarily to me then to someone who has kids, is nearing retirement, etc. Other times, though… mmm, not so much. This month, though, pretty much took the cake. The back page features a pair of articles on “GenXers”: Working with Members of Generation X and The Life and Times of a GenXer. These caught my eye, being myself a member of Generation X, at least according to some measures (including the one used in these articles, which measure Gen X as folks born 1965-1980). And, um… wow.
First of all: o hai, welcome to the mid-nineties! Seriously — I’m pushing thirty here, and I’m on the very tail end of Gen X. If people haven’t yet figured out how to work with people my age and up to fifteen years older, then I think maybe they’re doing something wrong.
Second, I couldn’t help but feel sort of bemusedly insulted by some of these tips:
- GenXers are terrific multi-taskers and used to a lot of stimuli. Keep them motivated by providing an environment in which they are challenged, and have opportunities to grow, and projects and assignments to keep them interested.
- Avoid corporate jargon and buzzwords, and talk in short “sound bytes” to keep a GenXer’s attention. Compose e-mail messages using short, concise wording when you communicate with a GenXer. Share information with them often and especially after an important event. Ask for their feedback and then listen to them—you might learn something!
- Keep meetings on track and focused. GenXers may become bored in meetings in which too much discussion precedes final decisions.
- GenXers are independent and require space. Don’t micromanage, but instead, give basic directions and then allow them to figure out the best way to get results.
- Reminiscing about 60-hour work weeks and wondering why younger staffers hit the door at 5 p.m.? Keep in mind that GenXers value a healthy work-life balance, and won’t spend as many hours in the office. Don’t try to force feed your values onto members of another generation.
Don’t get me wrong: I do see some of myself, some of my friends, and some of my coworkers (especially, in fact, those from Gen Y/the Baby Boom Echo/whatever it is we’re calling it these days) in these tips. But, come on — we’re adults; this makes us sound like we’re grade schoolers with short attention spans! (And really, isn’t “keep meetings on track and focused” good advice for the workplace regardless of what generation one’s dealing with?) Also, overgeneralized much?
Ah well — it made me chuckle, anyway…