Tag Archives: Generation X

Pivotal-Generation

The Pivotal Generation: How Today’s Teens Will Change the World

Peter recently was asked for his thoughts on ‘the pivotal generation’ and given perhaps their most defining trait of always being ‘plugged in’ to the internet and social media, what mental health challenges they may face, if any, in the workplace. Following is an excerpt from that interview.

Centennials / Gen Z have been dubbed the “pivotal generation.” Do you agree with that title? What does it mean with regards to teens’ roles in society today?

It’s definitely an interesting title.

Pivotal-Generation

There’s no fixed age range, but generally speaking the term ‘Pivotal Generation’ refers to people currently under the age of 18. Why pivotal? Because the research shows they are displaying different patterns of thinking and behaviour to the Gen Y / Millennials before them. And some have suggested that those differences put them in a position to change the world.

In that sense, the Centennials have the opportunity to be pivotal but it’s yet to be seen whether they’ll take on that challenge. As a challenge it’s a big one, and it comes with a lot of responsibility.

What concerns me is whether a whole generation, whose obsession is with branding and personal (not collective) success, is ready to change the world.

That’s an interesting point – do you think today’s teens will in fact change the world?

Yes of course, every generation changes the world, in a sense. They cannot help it. The question is whether it will be an accidental change or an intentional change. The Centennials are in a world full of resources. Will they be able to get together collectively and decide how they want to shape it? There is no evidence to show they are any more willing to do that than previous generations. They are highly motivated for sure, but their focus appears to be on personal success over the collective.

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We are at a pivotal moment technologically speaking. How will the human engage and interact with the technological and what impact will it make around the world? We have the option of self annihilation or evolution of the species.

I’d like to think we’ll go for evolution, but there are some indicators we are headed for self annihilation – just look at the increasing suicide rate for example. And that has been linked to an existential crisis magnified through technology like social media. For a species to evolve we need to be more ‘other people’ focussed, not just about ‘me’.

Have we taught the values of compassion and interest in others needed to drive meaningful change to Centennials or are they caught up in their own egocentric search for meaning through material things? And are these drives enough to change society? That remains to be seen.

In the workplace, definitely the pace of change has the potential to be more significant than with any previous generations. There’s a need for innovation. We’re already seeing challenges between Millennials and the older generations with older generations losing out – being slower to learn new technology (generally speaking), less able or willing to show initiative, or to think on their feet and adapt rapidly. They are more wired to an old-school academic mentality of first learning the theory, and following instructions. But that mentality is not able to rewire itself as needed. One exciting thing about Centennials is they live in a world where they do not need established institutions to learn what they need to learn at an expert level. Almost all skills are at their fingertips and they know where and how to get the knowledge.

What would you say are some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z / Centennials?

Certainly we’re generalising here, but I would say they are:

  1. Tech savvy, knowing how to use technology and where to go to find information;
  2. Defining their own way to live, their own kinds of relationships and sexuality;
  3. Focused on ‘success’ and they want it big – and they also have the platforms where that’s possible;
  4. Social media savvy and have their own rules and etiquette for it

How would you say Centennials compare to Millennials, for example mentally, emotionally or socially?

Centennials share the same affinity with technology as Millenials, but this is taken a step further when it comes to the ability to adopt new technologies even faster, and to engage with social media in a more complex way.

In comparison to the Millennials, Centennials in some ways demonstrate a return to the values of the Gen X or Baby Boomers with an emphasis on personal success, ambition, and seemingly materialistic values. Yet they are not restricted in how they go about accomplishing this.

For example, while they are very driven for personal success, Centennials really don’t follow the old patterns of work – Monday to Friday 9-5, or even old styles of entrepreneurship. They can now make a living off of “nothing”. Very intangible stuff, like blogging about a company’s product, for example. This is perfect for the current environment, or perhaps it’s what’s shaping the current environment. Whereas Millennials still have a foot in each door of the old and the new way of working.

The problem I see is that with so much dependence on social media and personal branding, life can become superficial. There can be existential crises when your success is defined by your social media status. But is that really any different from the status of the old days – which was all about climbing the hierarchy in an organisation? At the core, I see the same issues, on a different playing field.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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generation-x

Are Gen Xers the key to staying sane while managing a multi-generational workforce?

‘The problem with Millennials is that…’ is an expression often heard. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to manage a generation that is more in contact with technology than with people. At least that’s a common opinion. There is often talk about the contribution of Millennials to the workplace and the frustrations many members of other generations experience when working with them.

At the same time, many managers are puzzled by how Generation Xers have merged seamlessly into a workforce dominated by Baby Boomers.

How did they do that?

The answer may well prove to be the key to keeping you and your team sane as more generations join the workforce.

generation-x

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On Millennials

In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation (in the US). While there is some controversy surrounding the definition of Millennials by the year they were born, one factor in what defines a Millennial remains constant. These are the children who were raised in the current technological age. They do not remember a time without Google, mobile phones, or YouTube. They do not recall a time when they had to rely on books, card catalogs, or encyclopedias for information, but instead feel as though their ability to leverage technology for information gives them a competitive advantage over their older peers.

Baby Boomers, who are more likely to be employed by a company long-term often bemoan the Millennial’s lack of employer loyalty, feeling as though their perpetual need for mobility and purpose work to the disadvantage of an employer who invests training time and capital into their experience.

Meet Generation X

Generation X, on the other hand is much more defined by the years in which this population was born. Often considered the generation born from the 1960’s through the late 1970’s, Generation X currently comprises 32 percent of the workforce, only recently surpassed by Millennials, according to Pew Research Center. Generation X came of age along with the advent of the internet, making them old enough to remember life before we carried minicomputers in our pockets. This singular characteristic makes them more relatable to Boomers while being able to speak the language of technology with Millennials.

As the “sandwich generation”, Gen Xers often find themselves as the go-between for their Millennial and Boomer coworkers.

Baby Boomers

Making up just under 30 percent of the workforce, Baby Boomers are defined as those born after World War II up until 1960. While this sector of the working population are beginning to retire, and are expected to continue to decline in their employment participation, they are working far past traditional retirement years, often in conflict with their Millennial subordinates.

Boomers tend to prefer in person contact and telephone calls rather than electronic means of communication. These are the employees who value loyalty, honesty and work ethic above all else yet they are the group that most often struggles with work/life balance, sometimes neglecting their personal life out of duty to the organisation.

Cross-Generational Friction

If Millennials are defined by their use and reliance on technology and their perceived lack of loyalty, and Boomers are defined by their reliance on tradition and loyalty, it is easy to see why these two groups often find themselves in conflict with each other.

The key to building a cross-generational team that honors the experience of the Boomer while capitalising on the innovation of the Millennial may well lie in the intentional inclusion of the Generation Xer.

Experienced enough to appreciate tradition while young enough to value the usefulness of technology, the Generation X employee is able to bridge the seemingly cavernous gap between the other two generations.

Regardless of the makeup of the cross-generational team, leaders need to invest time in communicating the company’s vision, purpose and strategies to their employees. Understanding how their work contributes to the “big picture” appeals to the typical Millennial’s need to find meaning and value in their work. Understanding the strategic plan allows the Boomer and Generation Xer to capitalise on their experience to put these strategies into effect. And having a common vision helps all members of the cross-generational team to work together for a shared goal.

But bear in mind that this type of communication is not something that can be done once during an annual performance review. It must be infused into all of the leader’s communications, from informal performance reviews to regular staff meetings to corporate electronic communications.

Constant reinforcement of the shared vision allows the team to reconvene under a common purpose should it be derailed by generational misunderstandings. It also makes room for sanity and growth.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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