Geeks and Geezers
I was recently thinking about getting the new iPhone for my fifteen year old son. I still don't have a smart phone, and thought maybe it was time to get one for myself too and use some of the apps. My son quipped "why dad...you don't even know how to use all of the functions on the tv remote"!
I’m the oldest of the Baby Boomers and my son is a Gen M or the Media Generation. He’s already started his own online advertising and marketing business and views Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg as his entrepreneurial role models. The generational gap is wide, but we stay close as father and son with a lot of listening, understanding and openness to learn from each other.
Clash Points at Work:
Baby Boomers are lingering in the workplace. The younger Gen X and Gen Y (New Millennials) are growing impatient to ascend to leadership responsibilities. New graduates are knocking at HR’s door in record numbers. And technology, including social media, is transforming the mode and pace of communication. These trends are creating new opportunities, but not without foreseeable generational clashes.
In 1999, leadership expert Ira S. Wolfe coined the term “perfect labor storm” to describe a convergence of demographic and socioeconomic developments that would result in an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers in 2011—the year the first Baby Boomers hit 65 and start to retire.
But a severe and prolonged recession has delayed Dr. Wolfe’s predicted storm. Economic uncertainty has caused many Boomers to remain on the job, amid the highest unemployment rate in more than 30 years. Until we see the inevitable changing of the guard over the next decade, the workplace will be inhabited by a multigenerational stew of younger and older workers.
This environment will provide real opportunities and significant technological problems, Dr. Wolfe notes in his latest book, Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization: How to Manage the Unprecedented Convergence of the Wired, the Tired, and Technology in the Workplace (Xlibris, 2009).
Eighty percent of polled adults believe Gen X and Y have a distinctly different point of view—the highest perceived disparity since 1969, when generations clashed over the Vietnam War and civil rights. Younger adults (18 to 29) report disagreements over lifestyle, views, family, relationships and dating. Older adults criticize their “sense of entitlement.” Gen X and Y tend to be more tolerant on cultural issues, while Boomers cite manners as the greatest source of conflict.
New information technologies also divide the generations. Only 40% of adults ages 65–74 use the Internet daily, while 75% of those ages 18–30 go online daily. The gap is wider when it comes to cell phones and text messages.
Older generations’ complaints about the next generation are nothing new. Conflicts replay throughout every decade. No generation is better or worse than another, and prevailing attitudes are neither right nor wrong—just decidedly different.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself is “How can I help employees learn to work, live and play together more harmoniously?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their high performance leadership development program.
Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you better understand generational differences. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.
About Dr. Maynard Brusman
Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders. Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.
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