Categorized | Management

Stop Defining Generation: Define People

You don’t have to search far to find a trove of articles reaffirming what you already know.  These Millennials are a bunch of cry-babies that need a huge amount of hand holding, have unreasonable expectations of flexibility in the workplace, and just need to grow up.

Just like Generation Y.

Just like Generation X.

Just like the Boomers.

Just like (insert brand named  for a group of people born in a particular set of years))

There is a whole set of problems with this kind of thinking and there are a number of reasons why you should stop defining people by generation, and get down to managing individuals:

1.)  It Turns a Good Thing Bad

Young people (and probably anyone) starting a new job  feel ambitious, eager, and idealistic.  By defining that as a generational trait demeans what it is to be full of ideas and ready to change the world.   Harness that energy and engage with it rather than mock it.  Or worse belittle it as a train everyone the under 30 possesses.

2.)  You’re Better Than That

Generational pigeon holing is way too easy.  It lets managers off the hook by basically saying that an entire group of people has certain unchangeable traits.  Good management is about bringing out the best in every individual on your team.  That’s going to be a challenge if you’re matching management styles for people based on when they were born.

3.)   Recognize that Career Trajectory Matters More

Turn the tables and use the same set of criteria to define Boomers:  “Baby Boomers only care about retirement and security.  Stability and benefits are their only motivation.”

Those are not untrue statements.  But they are broad definitions based more on where someone is on their career trajectory more so than on generational values.  It’s not that age doesn’t matter. It just means that people’s goals change and evolve as they get older. But….

4.)  There Are Always (A Lot Of) Exceptions

People are surprising and you, as a manager, should embrace those surprises and, in fact,  seek them out.  Broad brush strokes eliminate the possibilities of seeing the details that make up and motivate someone.

There will always be differences between people who are young and old.  Technology will always be more advanced today.  One generation will grow up with things another generation did not have.  World events will impact us in different ways.  The old will mock the young for their idealism and need for approval.  The young will mock the old for their struggles with technology and set ways.  But these are the timeless challenges of life, not inevitable generational differences.

Looking at it this way may help see yourself in the “Millennial” you just hired.

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Jeremy Dixon

By Jeremy Dixon

Jeremy Dixon, PHR is Vice President of the Florida Division of A1 Temps, a Nesco Resource Company. He has 22 years of experience in the staffing industry and has served as President of HR Tampa, the local affiliate chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management.

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