Generational Stereotypes Have No Place Here

By Kristin Allaben

I was scrolling through Facebook early one morning and came across a video about an interview with a millennial with a prefacing comment that read “This is so true,” complete with a laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emoji. So I watched it. And I was infuriated by it.

I’m not normally the type of person to feel a sense of rage or frustration by watching or reading something I see on a social media platform. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… they’ve all given people a place to share their voice, whether they’ve thought things through or not.

But this particular video really hit home. I am a Millennial. I’m 32 years old and would never interview or behave that way, especially in an office environment. I also know 22-year olds who would never behave this way.

Herein lies the problem: Millennials are stereotyped as unaware, lazy, easily distracted, entitled and technology-dependent. But that isn’t true for everyone, the way any broad statement about Boomers or Gen Xers is untrue.

As is the case with every generational group, a 20-year age difference is substantial. But unlike the Silent Generation or the Greatest Generation, Millennials (people born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) aren’t shaped by one single event. There were the September 11th attacks in 2001, the Great Recession that started in 2007, and the significant advancement in technology, starting with widespread access to the Internet in the mid-1990s, the introduction of the first smartphone (the iPhone) in 2007, and this only continues to evolve.

Identifying generational groups certainly helps in some ways – particularly around marketing efforts for specific products – but they should have a limited role in the workplace.

I read an article that stated the workforce has a real challenge today as there can be four or five generations of employees in the same company. Sue Hawkes, a leadership expert, was cited in the article, explaining that dropping the stereotypes is the only way leaders can be truly successful. She said, “Belief in generational stereotypes limits your ability to harness the best from everyone at the table. A company’s leader can learn how to unlock potential from all generations by engaging everyone around shared values.”

Another article illustrates why it can be unproductive to train managers to “manage millennials” when in reality, managers should be taught how to first self-manage to be able to successfully interact, support, guide and coach any employee. The author astutely points out September 11, 2001. Every millennial experienced this event, yet the impact is drastically different. For me, I was in high school. I vividly remember where I was, who I was with and the sinking feeling my stomach. For someone born in 2000, they may not have even been walking yet and, therefore, are being taught about the attacks in school vs. experiencing it firsthand. Two millennials. Two different experiences with major, life-defining moments.

Every generational age group is comprised of different types of people – the driven, the lazy, the coasters. It’s unproductive – and quite frankly, unfair to all parties involved – to make assumptions on how someone will behave or perform in the workplace just based on the year they were born. This is where we find wisdom in challenging our perspective using the paint brush metaphor. When dealing with people or generations, never use a thick or wide brush. Instead, use a narrow brush. This allows you to review or assess a particular person and their motivations instead of generalizing and limiting others.

I’m not talking about ageism; that is a separate topic entirely. What I’m talking about is the importance of realizing that no two people can be accurately defined based entirely on their generational age group.

So here’s your challenge: whether a manager or an employee, stop and notice the judgements you make (or have made) about your colleagues. How many of those judgements are based entirely on generational bias? How many of those judgements are based on age vs. competency?

We all know the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think it’s time we remind everyone to live by those words.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What biases do you have toward colleagues (or friends or family members) who are part of a different generational age group?
  2. What can you do today to be more aware of those judgements to prevent creating and believing inaccurate statements?
  3. What can you do today to help others around you be more aware of their own biases?

 

Consider reading There is Genius in All of Us

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People Are Like M&Ms

By Jay Forte

Each of us is a uniquely capable, talented and amazing person who may experience rejection or dismissal because of how we appear on the outside. A great analogy I like to use is to think of people like M&Ms. On the outside, we all seem so different, but on the inside, we have so many similarities. Our “candy coating” is most often what we notice and comment on – not the remarkable inner “filling.”

I regularly speak to CEO groups about hiring the right employee based on fit. I stress that today’s interviews should be about looking past the “candy coating” of a candidate and instead focusing on the candidate’s “filling” – their thinking, talents, strengths and values. It is these attributes that allow us to see what makes people unique and remarkable, while also better equipping us to assess their fit for the available position.  

Here is a challenge. Stop and notice when you judge another based on their exterior before giving them a chance to show how remarkable and amazing their insides are. Catch how many times you do this and for today, make a conscious effort to notice your judgement and steer away from it. Consider how amazing this person may be. Consider what talents, strengths and values you share.

We respond better to those we feel are similar. So take the time to stop and notice the similarities.

I am constantly learning this lesson as I travel. I see people who look different everywhere. But now I find myself remembering M&Ms. By engaging these fellow travelers in a conversation to get to know their “filling,” I overcome the instinct to judge or make inferences about their “candy coating.” I simply ask them, “What is something great that has happened in your day today?” Their answers remind me that they are just like me – they are working on discovering how to do life, how to be happy, how to [better] care about the people they love, how to achieve their definition of success, how to make some sort of difference in their world. Being open and interested helps them share how remarkable they are, something I would miss if I let my judgments and limiting beliefs take over.

So, remember M&Ms – the different candy coatings mask the remarkable human filling. Ask and listen and you will discover that you are actually quite similar to those who may look the most different from you.

Make time. Care. Be interested. Reach out. You will be more impressed than you think.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How often do you tune in to your thoughts and comments about others?
  2. What is one thing you can do today to be less judgmental of others?
  3. How will you make time to see another’s inner greatness instead of focusing on their external differences?

 

Consider reading What Mask Are You Wearing Today?

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There is More Than One Way to Do Most Anything

By Kristin Allaben

I call myself a “new mom.” My oldest is about 1.5 years old and the youngest was born in December. I’m still new to this and have a lot to learn. I solicit advice when I need it and try to tune out the unwanted advice when I don’t want to hear it. But that gets hard, especially when those voices – combined with your committee of internal voices – tell you you’re not doing it right.

First of all, what is “it”?

A few years ago, there was a great video campaign that shared the different types of parents we find in today’s world. The video primarily focuses on the types of mothers – the working moms, “breastfeed from the source” moms, the helicopter moms – but also gives a nod to the dads who serve as primary caregivers.

The video is creative and entertaining because it so accurately points out biases and judgements from parents – “What’s it like to be a part time mom?” the stay-at-home moms say to the working moms. And they fire back, “Oh, stay-at-home moms; I wonder what they do all day?”

The quips continue about diaper preferences, bonding and baby-holding preferences and feeding preferences, until one of the strollers starts to roll down a hill. Suddenly, all judgements go out the window and everyone focuses on one goal: make sure the baby is safe.

As I mentioned, it’s an entertaining watch and, I admit, eye-opening at just how many judgements and criticisms we as parents have toward other parents (and we do this everywhere in our lives). At the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal: to raise strong, independent and (hopefully) well-adjusted kids who live a happy, meaningful and successful life (or as my husband says, “keep the tiny humans alive!”).

So why all the judging? Why all the comparing and critiquing?

There’s no single right way to parent, just like there is no single right way to do just about anything. Sure, there are guidelines and things you probably shouldn’t do (remember, “back is best!”), but let’s be real. We’re all working toward a common goal and there are many ways to get there.

Rather than criticize, let’s refocus and learn to praise and recognize.

Let’s cheer those parents on who tackle a feat many may feel only gods can conquer.

Let’s pat the parent on the back who looks like they need to be reminded there are going to be some tough days and tell them we’ve all been there and it will all be fine.

Let’s all remember we were “new moms” (or dads) at some point and sometimes just saying “you’re doing great” is all we want or need to hear.

No one knows what it feels like to be in the shoes of another. What we all can remember is that sometimes we should appreciate them for walking in whatever shoes they have.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. As a parent, what criticisms or judgements do you have toward other parents who may choose a different parenting style from you?
  2. What can you do differently to better understand why that decision works for them?
  3. What can you do today to stop the criticisms and judgements you have of other parents (and going larger – of other people)?

 

Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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