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I’m not a big fan of categorizing people by their age and putting a label on them. Years ago I wrote a blog about ‘Generation Why’ – claiming that I was very much a part of the “generation that questions everything.”

‘A picture saves a thousand words’… I begin to wonder what the children born this century will experience – how they will communication… perhaps we have only touched the surface in terms of how we connect to others. One thing is assured that technology will continue to be driven by human desires.

I attended a session called ‘De-coding the Next Generation’ by Michael McQueen last week. (An engaging and thought provoking speaker) – I am skeptical when it comes to generalizing about ‘generational differences’. However Michael did a good job at setting the scene and sharing his seven paradigm shifts.  He told us that people born after 1980 are likely to see the following areas differently than those born prior to the 80s.

  1. The concept of truth:
    Truth is seen as fluid: Often referred to as ‘my truth’ ie there are different points of view or versions. The word ‘should’ is seen as a judgment and the best way to tell something is to show that it works – and this can be done through story telling.
  2. The assumptions of respect:
    Respect is not automatic based on title or position – it is very important, however it must be earned and it also must be mutual. “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”
  3. Communication:
    Language has become far more about function than form – ‘Why use 179 letters when you could use just 79?’ Interestingly OMG and LOL have now been entered into the Oxford dictionary. Language has always evolved – it is just moving faster than it ever has before. ROFL (Rolling on floor laughing).
  4. The value of patience:
    Life is meant to be easy, convenient and entertaining. Things do not come to those that wait – they come to those who ask. The downside of this is that often if things do not come easily then it could be considered that something ‘wrong’.
  5. The need for affirmation:
    Nowhere more is this the case than in China following the one child policy – in China it is referred to as the ‘Little Emperor’ generation. The need for validation and recognition is paramount. I note that the recognition programs that RedBalloon designs say the all recognition must be immediate and regular – that Gallup claims that people have forgotten any acknowledgement within 7 days. Based on this paradigm shift I would argue the younger the employee the more recognition they will need before they will consider giving their discretionary effort.
  6. The future:
    Most young people don’t have a 5 day plan let alone a 5 year plan (argh my teenagers drive me spare as I try to work out what the plans are for the weekend). They want to leave their options open until the last minute. There may be no future so they living for the moment is paramount.
  7. Work ethic:
    Laziness is NOT a generational difference – there are lazy people of all ages. People born after 1980 just have different priorities. Friends and leisure are important in the balance of life and as such becomes a priority. Having a sense of purpose and understanding why something is to be done is important.

Subsequent generations are a product of the previous one. And I am fascinated to see that in the US Lenore Skenazy has founded a movement to encourage greater freedom for children – that she has dubbed Freerange kids – but there might well be a whole other blog in that. Perhaps we have been overly protective of our children which has influenced the generational paradigms.

In the mean time – I would argue that no matter what your age – society will continue to change. Our community will morph and evolve – you cannot fight it. You may as well get with the program and be part of the change.

Who did you recognize in your workplace today – young or old – and how great did it feel?




Reader Interactions


  1. I like this blog. Im a 1985 baby 🙂 There is obvious gaps amongst generations, although I’m curious to know who Michael McQueen was targeting with this presentation? I’d be concerned if it were aimed at leaders. I feel understanding other generations needs(well individuals in general), is a no compromise trait all leaders need to have (how would you realise engagement if not?). Perhaps his was aimed at managers (who I categorise far separately from leaders). As you mentioned, change is inevitable. Is there a resistance to change amongst older generations i don’t understand? I’d argue no and that if you consider yourself a leader and have no change management plans, then maybe you’re not.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. Totally agree Adam – in fact that was the intention of my blog… any leader who is not taking into account the diversity of the team – and harnessing those unique qualities of each individual for the good of the shared purpose is definitely not leading the organization to its full potential

  3. We are noticing an interesting reverse mentoring activity being promoted by some companies in Australia where the younger generations or “millennials” are providing reverse mentoring the older staff members on the best ways to use social media platforms and mobile devices. I think this is a great way to leverage the strengths of these younger workers while adding value to the older workers and certainly promotes a more diverse workplace.

    There will always be some pigeon-holing by age, but if we focus on the strengths each generation brings to the workplace, we can provide more opportunities for personal and professional development.

  4. Really good value and advice here Naomi. Diversity can be of great benefit to a company, and many under utilise the ability of having such a diverse team. You brought out some really great points well done.

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