I usually do research before writing a post to share professionally, but today – I hope that you’ll grant me permission to just speak from personal observation and introspection. I’m not quite sure how to formulate the point I wish to make, but thought I would give it a shot nonetheless.
I find myself in my mid-40’s…a Gen X’er…who lives and works in an exciting portion of history. We have so many reinventions occurring regularly that impact the way business is done. Many of those changes come with technologies that are being created, and I do really well at grasping them and learning them and using them in effective ways. But one of the reinventions that seems to be proving more difficult is for me to change who I am naturally in order to meet the expectations and preferences of new generations entering the marketplace.
I speak very often about how the new generation workforce is wired differently because they have had the internet available to them every day of their lives. Because of this, it has changed the way that they build community, communicate with others, solve problems, take action, their ideas of leadership and what should be done, etc. One of the biggest struggles that organizations now face is the balance of multi-generational workforces and having them not only be able to coexist, but ultimately thrive in working together. Companies are now trying to find the balance of catering to the desires of Gen Y, but also making sure that existing employees or other generations feel valued as well by keeping some policies and standards in place that they can appreciate.
In addition to the whole internet every day of their lives thing, Gen Y is also the generation where we started giving everyone a trophy, stopped keeping score, declaring winners and losers. We didn’t want to hurt their feelings. We wanted them to feel like everything in life will always be fair. But now, as adults, they are sometimes seeing for the very first time…it’s not fair. We do have winners and losers. We do have timelines to keep and budgets to maintain and profits that must be generated – and sometimes, even though this may horrify you – you must stay late on a Friday or come in on the weekend in order to accomplish it and sacrifice a little work/life balance. Sometimes a boss will be upset and will raise their voice a bit for emphasis…it doesn’t mean that they hate you.
So, back to this struggle that I must reinvent myself and change who I am naturally in order to make another generation feel better. This isn’t just me…we see it all the time through beliefs or convictions that we once held close, but now “society” has deemed those as narrow-minded or hurtful. I’m not sure who “society” is, what their qualifications are, and how they determine the standards for absolute right and wrong. By nature, I am someone who likes to joke around, make comments that poke fun at people (nothing too bad, just good natured teasing). But I find myself more and more having to refrain from any of that because someone will be offended or they’ll take something WAY beyond the way it was intended.
A couple of years ago, I had cancer. It was serious and there were some moments where things could have gone very badly. That encounter changed me in big ways. It reshaped my priorities. It made me value deep, personal conversations and connections. I tolerate but do not enjoy conversations about the weather we’re having or how the big game went over the weekend. I want to know the other person. What are you passionate about? What are your insecurities? What victories are you seeking currently? Tell me the stuff that other people don’t know about you, or even care enough to ask. These questions are not common;y asked and therefore, people do not know how to respond to them or know what to think about me as I ask them. Is he a nice guy or is he a “creeper?” By the way, I’ve learned from my teenage daughter that “creeper” is not the same meaning today as it was back in the 70’s and 80’s. hahaha
Several years ago, we had a new young lady at my office. She had just relocated to town and accepted a job with us for a new project. She had been working as a bartender until she found something in her field upon arriving in town. Well, I was asked to train her. In our conversations, I found out that she had come from out of state, had this bartending job to get by, but that she was really in desperate need for some money as she wouldn’t be getting her first paycheck at this job with us for a couple of weeks. She was still going to bartend at night and on weekends until that first check came. Over the weekend, I had her resume on my computer and it had her mobile number on it. I texted her to see if she was working at the restaurant that night and said I may come by to see you. My plan was to go and have dinner, by myself, let her serve me….and knowing that money was tight, I was going to surprise her and leave her a large tip when I left to help her get by until payday. Nice guy, right? Nope. She was bothered that I texted her on the weekend and was going to come see her at work.
My intentions were pure and kind and good. I never went to the restaurant because she never replied to the text, but when I arrived at work on Monday morning though, my boss made it known to me that she didn’t feel comfortable with me texting her and wanting to come by. That’s just one example of how the worst is now thought about you and you are condemned without ever being given the benefit of the doubt. I drive my wife insane sometimes because I like to surprise people by doing nice things for them, but sadly, the day and age we live in now doesn’t know how to respond to it. To me, this is the most frustrating part of today’s generation. They seem to be so skeptical of kindness. There is no benefit of the doubt any longer. The charitable side of me having to change to instead be guarded and protected is the most difficult of the transformations for me.
The ministers at my church won’t even tell a lady that they look nice today, and encourage all of the men to not compliment any woman who isn’t your wife because they are wary of lawsuits and complaints. Really? Are we really headed in the right direction when we can’t even say, “I like that new haircut. Is that a new dress? You look nice today.”
I know there is slowly becoming a new me, but I’m not so sure that societal norms are improving me, or any of us. Some of the old tried and true philosophies of my life are being thrown out – love your neighbor, do unto others and you would have them do unto you, don’t let the sun go down on your anger, better to give than to receive, etc. My hope is that these trends will begin to reverse themselves in 2014.
Surely there are others who are feeling the same things as me. Let me hear from you!