Bridging the different generations

- Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2014 - 12:00am

I once posted these words on my Facebook page, “We are now witnessing the entry of Generation Y into the market place. Generation X is getting old and many of them still do not know how to deal with the young. Bosses are clueless and do not know how to lead this brilliant dynamic force and they need training to do so.”

I had so many responses. I had so many mixed responses. I had young people thanking me for understanding them.

One post I got was, “Thank you, sir Francis, for understanding the youth. Interestingly, the comments we got from the older folks were all negative. One obviously Gen X’er was so upset with me that he angrily posted, “Francis, you just said a very dangerous statement. You need to pound them, and tell them how to be respectful and humble. You should not praise them because they might end up with a giant ego.” This only reinforced my suspicion.

When I was younger, the term used was “generation gap.” Today, as I look at the sentiments of the people from different generations, I knew that “gap” widened and became a chasm.

Now, let’s look at the facts. Never in the history of human kind that you would see all three generations of people working side by side in the work place. Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) represent a huge segment of our population, and the Gen Y or Millennials (those born after 1981) represent an even larger segment with their numbers eclipsing those of the boomers. In between are the Gen X’ers (those born between 1965 and 1980) and these are the ones prominent in leadership positions. Some boomers maybe retiring, but the reality is that for the Boomers, 75 is the new 65.

Boomers are living longer, healthier, and still want to live productive lives. They identify themselves with their careers, and they either don’t want to or can’t afford to retire. In marketing terms, there is a name associated to this group, the “Forever Young 50s.”

Boomers refuse to leave the workforce just as Millennials enter it. The Gen Xers lament the fact that certain positions are still being occupied by the Boomers who refuse to retire. And the younger, Tech-savvy and highly opinionated young Gen Y people are just so impatient to be promoted to higher positions.             

Ask HR practitioners, and they will tell you that the attrition is extremely high in this sector.

As leaders, you and I must understand the different generational mindsets. We need to build bridges, be adaptive, and adjust. We must be willing to forego old habits and comfort zones to the more fertile grounds of innovation. This is what I always teach in my leadership seminars and this always gets the most positive result. Leaders need to align the creative energy of the younger generation, and the experience of the seasoned workers to the organizational values and vision. Failure to do so brings trouble to the organization.

Gen Y people should respect the Boomers and Gen X, then learn from them. The combined work experiences and wisdom gathered over the years of the Boomers and Gen X are priceless because these are things you can never obtain in business schools and universities. As for the older ones, here is a very important advice. Gain insight on the young’s idealism and remember this very well, influence them, do not control them. Be humble and patient. In other words, lead, inspire and not “control” them. Follow all of these and be prepared to see the magic that will happen in your organization.

(Spend two inspiring days with Francis Kong learning leadership and life skills as he present Level Up Leadership on July 22-23 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel. For further inquiries contact Inspire at 09158055910 or call 632-6310912 for details.)






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