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The 5G conversation we should be having

For the past few months, conspiracy theories have been running wild about what 5G networks are and aren't doing (newsflash: they do not cause Covid-19). But, there is a 5G element that does affect many of us. For the past decade, we've had 5 Generations in the workplace for the first time.

We're seeing the generational diversity in workplaces. The 5 generations represented at work are: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. But, have we mastered generational inclusion; the point where every generation can feel safe to bring their full selves to work?

We need to be careful not to stereotype someone based on the generational group they belong to. Yes, age is absolutely one element that influences our attitudes and behaviour, but there are so many other factors that contribute as well (culture, nationality, gender, religion, education, socieconomic status, etc).

This morning at our weekly Tea & Toast webinar we had this 5G conversation. I gave our toasties my golden rules for understanding generations, identified areas in which we see generational sticking points arise, and focused on how we can respond when they do.

Sticks and stones can break my bones

After the webinar, I was talking to a Baby Boomer who commented on the speed at which the definition of 'what is acceptable at work' has changed. They lamented, People and workplaces are so sensitive now. Whatever happened to 'sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me? Ah, the good ol' snowflake argument.

To me, this is a perfect example of what I call "The Ashlynne Rule" (watch from 10:10 for a description of this). In short, it's when we judge a generation in isolation, forgetting to take into account that they were raised by a different generation.

I gently reminded him that when I was going to school we were taught sticks and stones can break my bones but words can break my heart. And we were taught this by his generation. We grew up understanding the power of words and how they can include or exclude people. And by understanding the power of words, younger generations have called out when they've been excluded.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has heard this example. But this is just one of the many examples of generational sticking points.

Sticking Points

A generational sticking point happens anytime different generations working together would naturally answer a question differently. Generational researcher, Haydn Shaw, has identified 12 common areas where sticking points arise at work. In these 12 areas, generations might respond differently to the following questions:

  1. Communication: What is the best way to interact with my coworkers?

  2. Decision making: How do we decide what to do?

  3. Dress code: How casually can I dress?

  4. Feedback: How often do I want input?

  5. Fun at work: How much fun is allowed at work?

  6. Knowledge transfer: How do we pass on critical knowledge?

  7. Loyalty: When is it ok to move on?

  8. Meetings: What should happen in our meetings?

  9. Policies: Are policies rules or just guidelines?

  10. Respect: How do I get others to respect me?

  11. Training: How do I learn best?

  12. Work ethic: How many hours are required? When must I work them?

Are you experiencing a generational sticking point in your team? Family?

Try to start from a place of understanding and consider the following:

  • What are the differences in approach / attitudes?

  • Why do the different generations value their own approaches / attitudes?

  • Where have these approaches / attitudes come from?

  • What assumptions am I making, based on my generational values?

  • What can I learn from them?

The generational divide has existed for a very long time and generational sticking points aren't going away. However, it is our choice whether we let these differences keep us apart or if we lead through them. After all, we each have a role in creating inclusive environments where people from all generations feel valued and safe to bring their full selves to work.


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