People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
The Who’s Pete Townshend was on to something when he penned these lyrics. It seems different generations have eyed one another with doubt, dismay, and downright disrespect for a long time. It’s no wonder generational trending has been one of our most requested workshops over the last decade as leaders try to navigate having 4-5 different generations in their organizations.
In our experience, there is a tendency to make dangerous assumptions about other generations. Today, we want to tackle the most damaging ones we encounter.
Bad Assumption #1: Boomers Are Selfish
The prevalence of billionaires and political leaders in the Boomer generation has caused many to declare that Boomers are unconcerned about future generations, but studies from Pew Research Center, among others, suggests that many Boomers tend to be active in matters involving the future, including education and job training, climate change, health care reform, and social justice.
Bad Assumption #2: X’ers Are Lazy
The tendency of X’ers to seek work-life balance has led to many declaring them lazy, but an analysis of 77 studies conducted by the Journal of Business and Psychology revealed no difference in work ethic between X’ers and Boomers, including in hours worked and commitment to work.
Bad Assumption #3: Millennials Are Too Confident
The impact of the “participation trophy” has encouraged many to suggest that Millennials have more confidence than competence, but our experiences tell us that Millennials are often hampered by self-doubt in contexts where consistent feedback is withheld (in other words, the “trophy” wasn’t about the hardware at all, it was an important form of feedback about their value to the team).
Bad Assumption #4: Gen Z is Tech Addicted
Because Gen Z has never known a time without tech (e.g., cell phones, tablets), many label them as addicted to technology, but informal research shared by Global News reveals Gen Z is no more likely to be on their devices than older generations and, in fact, that they are more likely to unplug altogether.
Let’s Act: While it’s true that generations may demonstrate unique characteristics in the workplace, many of the assumptions we make just aren’t supported by evidence. As leaders, we need to check our assumptions at the door and take time to learn about the individuals we lead rather than relying on faulty stereotypes.