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Your Next Career Superpower? Being a Generational Liaison

April 21, 2016

 

 

Every office has them: people who have the ability to work with just about any colleague or client. Ever wonder how they do that?

 

Two words: generational liaisons.

 

They understand the importance of bridging the gap between generations to make everyone feel heard, respected, and valued.

 

Not an easy task, but definitely worth your time.

 

Ready to start your education? Here’s rundown of each generation[1] you’re most likely to encounter in the workplace, along with what makes them tick, what ticks them off, and how to use those nuggets of wisdom to aid in your diplomatic journey:

 

BABY BOOMERS
This generation was born approximately 1944-1964, in a robust postwar economy. Influenced by Vietnam, Watergate, protests, and the Human Rights Movement, they questioned authority and were the free-spirited hippies of the ‘70s. Once careers became a priority, these competitive Boomers worked long hours and sacrificed family and personal time in exchange for financial success. Often referred to as the “Me Generation," these status seekers suffered an increased divorce rate and corporate downsizing.

 

What Makes Them Tick

Understand that Baby Boomers:

  • Believe work is about building a stellar career.

  • Focus on long hours at work.

  • See money, title, and recognition as rewards.

  • Feel job changing puts you behind.

  • Think feedback should be annual.

  • Value success.

  • Are motivated by money.

  • View money as a status symbol.

What Ticks Them Off

Please don’t:

  • Be a slacker in the office — do your part.

  • Take advantage of their hardworking nature — they’re prone to burnout.

  • Expect them to understand why someone would job hop.

Takeaways

  • Face-to-face communication works best for these go-getters.

  • Demonstrate your work ethic.

  • Offer them flexibility, authority, and respect.

  • Challenge them to keep growing (in their own way).

  • Compliment them on their drive to succeed.

 

GENERATION X

Born 1965-1980, hardworking and motivated Gen Xers have no problem paying their dues, and believe others should as well. The first latchkey kids who may have also had divorced parents, they grew up in a world characterized by an unstable economy and high crime rates and learned to be self-reliant and flexible. Focused, resourceful, and independent, they strive for a balance between work and life, with freedom being the ultimate reward. They were technology’s first guinea pigs and are highly adaptable to change. They’re also known as the “MTV Generation” (back when MTV only played music videos), and have worked in offices with both typewriters and computers.

 

What Makes Them Tick

Understand that Gen Xers:

  • Believe work is about building a portable career.

  • Focus on productivity at work.See freedom as the ultimate reward.

  • Feel job changing is necessary.

  • Seek feedback, often asking: “So, how am I doing?”

  • Value time.

  • Are motivated by time off.

  • View money as a means to an end.

What Ticks Them Off

Please don’t:

  • Micromanage them — no need for hand holding here.

  • Take away their time off — Gen Xers don’t want to follow Boomers into burnout.

  • Appear entitled or whine about what you “deserve.”

  • Wait until asked to keep them updated.

Takeaways

  • Demonstrate your initiative.

  • Push them to keep learning for every new project.

  • Use both electronic and face-to-face communication methods.

  • Keep the lines of communication open.

  • Trust them to work independently.

  • Compliment them on their work ethic.

 

MILLENNIALS

Though there is still debate about the end date for this generation, most sources cite Millennials as people born 1981-1997. As children, they received much attention and focus on a positive self-image, and expect to hear praise and feedback on a continual basis. Influenced by natural disasters, violence, gangs, and diversity, Millennials are realistic, socially conscious, and globally concerned. These service-oriented individuals want their work to be meaningful, will work hard as long as they feel fulfilled, and will balance their career with outside pursuits and interests. They are the most tech-savvy generation, having never known a world without computers, cell phones, the Internet, and portable gaming devices. As such, they are highly adaptable to change and view technology as an extension of themselves.

 

What Makes Them Tick

Understand that Millennials:

  • Believe work is about building parallel careers.

  • Focus on contribution at work.

  • See meaningful work as their reward.

  • Feel job changing is part of a daily routine — their career path doesn’t have to be a straight line.

  • Want virtual feedback, at the touch of a button.

  • Value diversity, change, and individuality.

  • Are motivated by purpose.

  • View money as today’s payoff.

What Ticks Them Off

Please don’t:

  • Treat them like your child (or grandchild!).

  • Assume they aren’t really working because they’re listening to music/on their phones/multi-tasking/wearing casual clothes.

  • Drown them in slow, meaningless tasks with no social interaction.

  • Take away access to their technology.

  • Wait to offer feedback.

Takeaways

  • Measure their work by their contributions, not hours logged.

  • Work with a purpose is just as important as making a buck.

  • Treat them as professional colleagues and they will act like professionals.

  • Keep them focused by using speed, customization, and interactivity.

  • They prefer informality in communication, attire, and approach.

  • Compliment them on their productivity.

 

Ready to be your office's secret weapon? Let your newfound generational knowledge help you better navigate between — and more importantly, connect with — the tribes.

 

[1] Generational brackets as reported by Pew Research; Bridgeworks / www.Generations.com

 

© Amy Blaschka and www.rbpconsulting.org, 2016

 

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Now it's your turn: What's your career superpower? Are you your office's secret weapon? Do you have additional generational insights? Please share your thoughts, experiences, and strategies in the comments section below.

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