I just don’t understand kids these days

Yesterday my 23-year-old marketing coordinator was reading this article from the Washington Post about generational differences and how members of different generations can adjust their expectations and communication styles to get along better in the workplace.

I had my own experience with inter-generational communication break-down a few jobs ago. I had this very bright young assistant who nevertheless wasn’t particularly detail oriented. One day when we were sitting on the floor of our office stuffing name badges into name badge holders, I pointed out that she had misspelled the person’s name and asked her to fix it. She did, but only after rolling her eyes at me and arguing that she didn’t see why it was so important.

A few weeks later, I attended a seminar by a Marriott executive that explained why that interaction had gone so badly. See, certain members of the youngest generation currently in the workplace have never really been criticized. They all got trophies even if they didn’t win. Self-esteem is paramount. (All according to generational theorists of course.)

What it all came down to was that if I sandwiched criticisms with praise, I got a lot farther with her than I did by just giving her the criticism. In that instance, I should have said, “I really appreciate how quickly you finished printing those nametags. I noticed that a couple of them were misspelled so if you could fix them that would be great. And by the way, I heard how you handled that irate caller earlier and I was impressed with how well you kept your cool.” It didn’t take a lot of effort on my part to totally reinvent my relationship with her and now we’re still in touch after several years.

Of course, any discussion of generalizations, including generational ones, are always subject to alteration for individual characteristics. When my marketing coordinator and I were looking at the generational profiles at the end of the article, she and I both thought some of the markers of our generations (Gen Y and Gen X respectively) weren’t entirely accurate.

Read the article and let us know what you think.

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