Generational Research Does Not Provide Answers (Friday Quote)

generations-229x300I haven’t done a Friday Quote in a while, and today I’m drawing from an ebook that I wrote (gasp) six years ago, on Generational Diversity. I’ve been thinking a lot about generations lately. I’m wondering if it’s time to elevate our conversation about that topic. I think the book I wrote did a good job of breaking down the basics, but maybe now there’s even more at play. But the quote I give you is from the beginning of the chapter AFTER I go over the characteristics of the four generations in the workplace today. I admit that my readers might be disappointed because I didn’t include a nifty matrix chart laying out all four generations and how they are different.

Unlike many authors, I did not provide a tidy table at the end of the previous chapter summarizing the attributes of the four generations in today’s workplace, highlighting their similarities and differences. I apologize. I understand this is a lot of information to process and retain—and a table would help—but I left out the summary table for an important reason:

Encapsulating the differences among generations gives the false impression that knowledge of these differences is going to solve your problems.

The truth is, it won’t. Knowledge is only the first piece to this puzzle. Research on generational differences is by its nature a high-level analysis, and that limits its direct applicability to your very specific workplace problems. Generational differences are very real sociological dynamics, but they apply to entire segments of the population—tens of millions of people in this country. Although we tend to personify these generations by discussing the generational “personalities,” you must remember that these generalizations cannot be applied to individuals.

Knowledge about generations should spark conversations, and in the conversations we’ll figure out where we need to go together. So it’s less about whether Generation X are “team players” and more about including our differences so we can get things done.

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