As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to put people into broad categories and then make assumptions based on those categories.
At a coaching workshop last week, I mentioned my general dislike for the topic of “generations in the workplace.” I mentioned that generations in the workplace topics are the fast food of HR and leadership. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s deceptively filling, and you can get it practically anywhere.
Are there shared societal experiences that play a role generational perspectives? Of course. Do these perspectives also create some common ground among members of a generation? Absolutely.
There are infinite variations of, and contradictions to such perspectives!
And that’s the problem.
Generational assumptions are a failure to understand the individual.
The second you assume that all Millennials are this or that, or that Generation X prefers this type of work to another (and so on and so forth), you will be confronted by someone who contradicts that assumption. And when someone has to stand up for themselves and the set of living contradictions that make them a unique human being, they have to do so because they don’t feel like they matter enough to you to warrant any kind of effort.
When people feel that they have to assert their value as an individual, they are telling you that they are more than a set of assumptions. They are telling you that they don’t feel heard or understood.
They are asking you to value them as an individual, with unique experiences, perspectives, and skills. They are asking you to see the potential in them as a human being, not a category.
That’s not too much to ask right?
After all, don’t people across all generations want the same?