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By David Harder on February, 15, 2017

Is Generational Differences a Racket?

Every decade or so, a new marketing phenomenon hits the talent development field. I promote any idea that produces learning and growth. However, generational differences, in my mind, is becoming foolishness. In many cases, it supports rather than dismantles bias. It is often manipulative and confusing.


Yesterday, a very successful entrepreneur told me, “I would love to hire young people but Millennials have a poor work ethic.” I told her that making generalizations about any segment of talent is a really bad idea. I know baby boomers and gen-x workers with terrible work ethics.


I’ve often been asked for advice from employers who are down to the two or three last candidates. They ask, “Which one shall we pick?” After getting through the functional details, I usually respond, “Hire the one that has gratitude.”


When we imply that Millennials are active learners, we overlook the idea that other categories have active learners as well. When we say that Millennials, as Time Magazine recently put it, are the “me me me generation” we forget how self-obsessed any of us can be.


When I help a client make a hiring decision or hire someone for Inspired Work, this is what I look for:


Technical proficiency, active learning, integrity, truthfulness, curiosity, an appreciation of others, an orientation towards collaboration and gratitude. I look for someone who was well raised or had a wake-up call after leaving home. They ask great questions. They have researched the organization and me. I look for the skills that will help them change and reinvent themselves. These characteristics are far more important to me than age.


In an interview for my new book The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press), Tom Drucker, a rock solid baby boomer said that Millennials want to be treated like adults. Managers often talk down to them like they haven’t earned their stripes or don’t yet know what is going on. Candidly, why would we want to work with anyone with those characteristics? They got the job!


When someone is shifting communications style based on the age of the person in front of them, he or she is often distracted from practicing and honoring the deepest needs in all humans. One of those needs is to be judged and evaluated fairly.


Inspired Work went into the leadership business years ago and this is what I have learned from working with a large cadre of executive leaders:


  • Don’t just tell people what to do. Ask them the great questions that reveal their needs and expectations.
  • Find a way to help them fulfill those needs and expectations.
  • Treat everyone with the Golden Rule.
  • Continually reward people with praise and accept it graciously when they praise you.
  • Define your personal brand and your standards. Be consistent.

When I launched Inspired Work in 1990, I was filled with bias, which is often a polite way of saying I practiced discrimination. We were fortunate to have thousands of people coming through our programs in those early years. Time and time again, I would witness the very people who didn’t or wouldn’t get it perform miracles in front of my eyes. As I watched people change their lives and practice courage and tenacity and taking the high road, I also witnessed a common spirit that is so powerful and transformative that I changed. I realized the very differences I looked for were totally superficial.


I welcome that change in all of us.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc. (310) 277-4850


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