Are generational differences bunk?
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
When I tell people I’m a professor, the most common reaction I get is, “How do you deal with Millennials?” Often followed by, “I could never deal with them all day”. This comes from a place of curiosity and sometimes disdain.
As a Gen Xer myself, I remember the stereotype—“slackers”—when I entered the workforce, and how inaccurate it felt. Research consistently shows that there are more differences WITHIN generations than BETWEEN generations. This means that you are just as likely to find “entitled” and “lazy” Millennials as Baby Boomers. These stereotypes are likely conflated with age and career stage. Remember, Baby Boomers were the “free love” generation who didn’t trust anyone over 30.
If you are curious about the evidence on this lack of generational differences, a recent article in Harvard Business Review provides a nice overview: https://hbr.org/2019/08/generational-differences-at-work-are-small-thinking-theyre-big-affects-our-behavior
As it turns out, our BELIEFS in these stereotypes could actually be the biggest problem in the workplace. We tend to behave as others expect (self-fulfilling prophecy) and react based on what we perceive others think about us. Perhaps we should give high quality connections a try instead of assuming we know people based on their generation.