Gen What?

I recently attended a workshop titled, “Shenanigans, Tomfoolery & Nonsense–Ideas for Boosting Morale.” Walking toward the breakout room, I mentally pictured the presenters as a couple of boomers who were just past the point where using the words tomfoolery and shenanigans was socially acceptable.  While it clearly seems I have a bias here, it was simply a result of having classified words, phrases and “lingo” by the generation when they were used.  You know, like if I said, “totally” or “gross me out the door,” you’d swear I was a child of the 80’s.

The session was actually pretty useful.  And a critical point the presenters made was that in every organization there are groups of people who engage with work and life and relationships in ways unique to their generation, and finding ways to cohese requires a multi-faceted approach.  For example, some of my current team members wouldn’t appreciate a “sunshine” committee, but would get behind a “feels good, follow your dreams, don’t waste my time” committee. 

My curiosity piqued, I wanted to learn more about each generation.  I didn’t actually realize how many there were and admittedly never really liked being pigeonholed into a category. Makes sense, Generation Xers can be obnoxiously self-reliant and hold a mistrust of institutional authority.  But here’s what I learned. I’ll forgo the descriptive words and let you make your own associations.

The Lost Generation (1883-1900)

The Greatest Generation (1901-1924)

Traditionalists/The Silent Generation (1925-1945)

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Generation X (1965-1980)

Generation Y/Millennials (1981-1996)

Generation Z (1997-2012)

Next, I got my hand on some information and found out that the lineup on my current team includes 20% Baby Boomers, 45% Generation Xers, 32% Generation Y/Millennials and 5% Generation Zers.  I can remember when our generational roots went slightly farther back.  

As I sat through the session, I began to recognize that the presenters were really affecting culture in their organization–something also very important to me. Having shared commitments, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be happy and fulfilled at work, and valuing relationships are all part of that. But as the shenanigans presenters clearly laid out for me, that doesn’t happen until we really know the people on our team.  

My ask of everyone reading this is–for whatever organization you’re a part of–to make a conscious attempt to recognize each others’ history, to seek to understand each others’ values and viewpoints, and to deliberately look for ways in which everyone’s diverse experiences can make your team stronger.

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