Friday, May 15, 2009

Answers are No Solution

Scott Briscoe wrote a post on Acronym about some speakers who did a talk about what Generation Y wants in the workplace but found their message carried across generations. Scott admits he's "anti-generation," though like most instances where he and I "disagree" we really don't. Scott says:

 I absolutely think the generational stereotypes have some basis in factual research, but these stereotypes break down so seriously at the individual level, that the noise around generational differences is significantly detrimental.

All stereotypes--or better, all generalizations break down at the individual level. The trick is in using them effectively. Think back to my post about micromanaging. I personally fit the stereotype of Gen X (was a latch-key kid, took care of myself, then in the workplace liked to be left alone and do things myself). As a manager, I got some feedback that I was "absent" from my younger direct reports. Now, if I had gone to the session that Scott described, I might have thought "Hmm, I'm not providing my younger employees with enough feedback, and I need to do that." Or, as I did in this case, I thought "Hmm, I'm Generation X and didn't like micromanaging so I might be over-reacting in assuming my younger employees want to be left alone as much." Either one is fine, because neither one actually gives me an answer and tells me what to do (answers are no solution). I have to have a conversation with my employees about it and together we will figure it out.

But knowing about generations can help me see what's happening, ask better questions, and have better conversations.


Post a Comment