CEO of the New Zealand Institute of Management and Leadership.
We are all given a label, and whether you like it or not, you have one too: Baby Boomer, GenY, Millennial… and the chances are, that there are multiple generations all finding their way in your own family and work environments.
But are we really that different?
My own father was happy to have one career and one job — with just one organisation — and yet, his work ethic and values were just the same as many of us share today.
He wanted to make a positive impact in his own environment and he didn’t know how the wider society judged his contribution. At that time, of course, there was no social media to link, or ‘like’, his actions and thoughts.
Millennials are apparently driven to be a part of something meaningful and want to have a positive impact on the world. Many Generation Xers were also raised with strong values, such as doing good to others and ‘paying it forward’.
So if each generation is, in their own way, committed to some form of social enterprise, or at the very least ‘doing the right thing’, what need is there for continuing talk of ‘generational conflict’?
It might be more meaningful to express the difference not in terms of what we are striving for…but in the way we achieve it.
Is it possible old ways are not necessarily as efficient and effective as we once thought and there might just be a better way of achieving the end goal? Every new generation deserves a mandate to shift their way of doing things, and many of us could be more understanding and accepting of change.
The question was, does generational conflict exist? And the answer is ‘yes — but it needn’t be a problem – just a difference’.
A better question is ‘how would our working environment look if us ‘oldies’ moved over and allowed the next generation to demonstrate their new ideas? In the same breath, ‘how would it look if our ‘youngies’ showed a willingness to ask questions and listen with interest’?
Spending time with Emerging Leaders, a group of ambitious under 35 year-olds, I see the same drive to make a difference that I had at their age and which I am sure my Dad shared too.
We could avoid conflict and focus instead on what we are trying to achieve and all the ways we could go about it. If age is just a number and experience is to be valued, instead of making this about one’s gender or generation – let’s make it about individuals and encourage willingness to embrace more diverse thinking.