An Executive Director's point of view
November 25, 2012: Thinking young
I thought my way was the best way. My older predecessors, I felt, were too formal and traditional. And I was certain I knew more than they did.
It wasn't until I got older that I realized I didn't know everything.
When incorporating younger people into your work environment, recognize they may think and act differently than you do today (but probably similar to the way you thought and acted when you were younger).
Here's what you may encounter:
1. Dislike and disregard for authoritative hierarchies.
2. Unwillingness to cancel personal obligations for work.
3. Skipping events when something better comes along.
4. Not picking up on "hints."
5. Avoidance of interaction with older people.
6. Little, if any, concern for family commitments.
7. Ignoring embarrassing subjects.
8. Lack of experience.
9. Not staying.
And here's how to deal with them:
1. Keep staff informed and involved in decision-making, invite input, and give serious consideration to feedback (You should have been doing this all along, not just when young people demanded it). Still, staff is not a commune, and the CEO or supervisor will have to make final decisions.
2. Don't issue last minute assignments that require staff to cancel personal obligations. When a true emergency occurs, expect them to finish work - usually from home or another remote location, not at the office - after their dinner, movie, art class, or party.
3. Remind staff they must always honor commitments. They cannot cancel a meeting or not show up because they have a date, were offered free tickets to a concert or sporting event, or want to install and learn a new computer program.
4. Be specific. Tell staff what is expected of them - don't make them guess.
5. Create intergenerational teams or working groups. Young people don't always feel comfortable interacting with folks their parents' age. Let them know that cannot be avoided in the work place.
6. Don't dump extra work on young people just because they don't have family responsibilities. But also be sure they respect the family commitments of co-workers. Everybody can't be, and should not have to be, available for work all of the time (they'll respect that).
7. Intervene, when necessary, to deal with embarrassing issues such as employees with body odor, people who loudly snort and sniffle all day, and those who continually burp or pass gas. Young people often ignore those kinds of problems, hoping they'll somehow go away by themselves.
8. Young people don't know everything. Teach them (don't berate them). They can't possibly know everything necessary to complete every task.
9. Young workers will leave no matter what you do for them, so don't obsess about trying to keep them. Get the most out of them while they are with you and provide them with the tools they'll need to succeed elsewhere in the future.
November 02, 2012: He had once been young
A brief slide show of his life was played at the event, and it included pictures of him with his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. His wedding picture drew sighs from the audience, even though most attendees hadn't known him.
The pics were a vivid reminder that he hadn't just been a wise, old professional. He had once been a vigorous, assertive, young leader.
Younger people usually don't experience the passing of respected colleagues. But older people do. And as people age (and we all age), they become more aware of their own legacies and those of others.
The slide show could have been a cheesy memorial to a leader most people didn't know. Instead, it was a respectful reminiscence of a person who had been an admired leader, and served as an example of how to honor and remember the lives of our fellow professionals.
July 29, 2012: Just my style
They may employ new technologies, improve upon past methods, or they may simply have more options to choose from.
In some instances, though, differences are just a matter of style.
Every generation has looked, spoken, and acted in its own way. People frequently want to be different than those who preceded them. It's not necessarily because there is anything wrong with their predecessors (although, sometimes there is).
They just want to create their own "brand."
That brand may show itself in different organizational structures, different job titles, different administrative procedures, different educational techniques, different language usage, different work habits, or different types of apparel and body adornments.
The important thing is that the new brand is different than the old brand. And its use marks a person as part of a different generation.
It's often just a matter of style.
July 18, 2012: Network down
As they have progressed into the second half of their careers, though, many have found those valued connections have retired - or even died - and can no longer help them. Their networking pool has shrunk and will continue to shrink.
Older professionals need to start looking back and networking with younger professionals whom they may not have felt offered them much value in the past.
Many younger folk may, in fact, be looking for people to help them climb that same ladder of career success. And quite a few of them may have already found success and can offer connections of their own.
So, start networking down. There are more people behind you (at least in age) than ahead of you, and they can offer immense value in your professional world.
April 26, 2012: Moving to a different beat?
Here are some tips about how to engage (and disengage) younger people, from Sarah Sladek of XYZ University.
April 10, 2012: Millennials as fund-raisers
Students at Indiana University effectively demonstrated that by raising $1.8 million for Riley Hospital for Children, a university-affiliated institution in Indianapolis IN, through the Dance Marathon, a fund-raising event held on many American college campuses.
Here are some important considerations about Millennial fund-raising.
March 28, 2012: Things change
Yesterday, he stated a belief that older people are more concerned about privacy than are younger people, and that future generations will better understand the benefits of sharing information that some people today don't want to share.
I don't believe that institutions of the future will acquire and manage information any more wisely, responsibly, or fairly than they do today. So I don't want them to have access to my personal information. But that's another issue.
The generational divide he refers to is not a stationary barrier. As people get older, their opinions will change. They may cling to their basic beliefs but those will not be absolute.
New experiences will impact peoples' beliefs and behavior. New jobs, marriage, death of parents, child rearing, career advancement, health care needs, and job loss will all change how they deal with the world.
People who once only phoned and texted will start using email. They'll stop attending midnight concerts. They'll no longer brag about going to work with monster hangovers.
Many will trade in their renovated lofts that are walking distance to downtown jobs and entertainment venues for homes or apartments in communities with better schools, parks, and neighborhood amenities, even if it creates a longer commute.
They'll understand that political change occurs incrementally and that nobody gets everything they want all of the time.
Today's 50- and 60- somethings were once 20- and 30-somethings. They, too, were once critical of older peoples' attitudes and behavior.
But things change.
February 11, 2012: Time hasn't changed it
January 02, 2012: Young people - give 'em time
I didn't adopt a personal budget until I learned about budgeting and cash flow in graduate school. I didn't save money in my early 20s because I just assumed I'd have more money later in life and I needed the money I had now - for now.
Young professionals may be very savvy about some things (like technology). But don't be surprised when they seem to lack what you consider to be basic living and working skills.
They're still learning. Give 'em time.
December 25, 2011: Look in the mirror
- We questioned authority - and often defied it.
- We expected everybody to listen to us.
- We were technologically advanced.
- We wanted to make the world a better place.
- We sought IMMEDIATE action and IMMEDIATE solutions to everything.
- We tried not to let work interfere with our personal lives.
- We dressed the way WE wanted to, and challenged "stupid" dress codes.
- We thought our older bosses were too stodgy, too cautious, too traditional, and too ancient.
- We did not accept advice from more experienced people.
So what happened?
We learned from experience. Young professionals will do the same.
So, don't wring your hands over today's differences between generations. Yesterday, we were no different.