Generational Conflicts: Quit whining & get on with them!
Not that they were disloyal or ungrateful; they just had a different way of looking at the same things
Who is a baby boomer! Who is a Millenial – can we not get our own monikers! We have always had a baby boom in India, how else did we get to and galloping away to the top spot in population! Likewise, the Millenials are supposedly ‘Digital Natives’ and yet we have 70 percent of Millenials in India whose sole access to the net is at work! And we know most corporate networks are heavily protected and regulated!
Debunk them, believe in them – the generational clash is real. I experienced it recently at work and every day at home with my 8-year-old!
The generational clash came to a head, when we announced our annual merit salary increase. I had great conversations with my directs about their increases or the fact they will not get promoted this time around. We understood that this was not the time to bicker, shook hands and committed to delivering our next half goals and went on with my life.
Grateful for the understanding and maturity, I heaved a sigh of relief little realizing what was in store. The peace and understanding shattered with the trill of the phone to announce that one of our star performers may not be too happy with the increase, made that very clear and indicated that they move on. I blew - how can they! Don’t they get it, ungrateful… a few new cuss words and a high BP.
Little realizing that they were not the only one, another twenty something, who we had hired straight from B-Schools and groomed in our leadership program, rather politely made it clear that despite their increase and promotion, they were to put mildly – unhappy.
That was it! I had had enough of these young chaps – or had I? I was remembered of my vulnerability when I got home to be pestered by my son to download a game! I snarled back reminding him that I had downloaded one over the weekend! The cool response was, ‘But Appa, that was the weekend, I am bored with that game, please please.” I was too tired to even give him the regular gyan of how my childhood was different and how he was ungrateful. I knew I was defeated… they were different; I better learn to live with them.
What started was a journey of discovery, by no means complete, but a great beginning.
Lesson 1: Stop judging
My first reaction to all of the above was - how could you? Despite everything, I got to remind myself that my investment, my plan and the good things I did were not their burden. Not that they were disloyal or ungrateful; they just had a different way of looking at the same.
Lesson 2: Stop comparing
Big mistake, oh! We weren’t like this! I would have been grateful if I got an increase. You know they are not you and they did not grow up wondering if they would get a job. They had a job waiting by the time they were in the 4th semester! Also they have more options than we did.
Lesson 3: Think what and not why?
Let me explain. When I stopped yelling why you are doing this to what makes you react this way, the conversation was different. For example, with the youngster who was promoted, received an increase and yet was unhappy, the issue was not with the company – the issue was with their peer group. In the age of FB updates and LinkedIn designation updates, people were constantly grading their progress not in absolute terms, but relative to what their class fellows are. Once you get it and have a conversation, how you can help them stay contemporary, the results can be gratifying.
Lesson 4: Don’t get emotional
When sanity prevailed, I realized I was the one who was getting worked up, not them. They were quite cool and expressing what they thought. Thinking back, I was also upset, but just did not speak up, accepted it and moved on. They are just telling me – am I not better off than having them quietly pack their bags and move on?
Lesson 5: Rules of the game have changed
Yes, and dramatically. Life is on the fast track; don’t try and impose 1980s & 1990s career progression guidelines in the 21st century. While you don’t want to burn the youngsters out, allow their aspirations an airing. It need not always be a promotion; it could be that additional project or the client role! An elevation is not always the answer.
At home, despite disapproving stares from other parents we are ok if our 8year-old spends time on the iPad or on his Nintendo! That’s his time out… and by the way, I have seen the way children bond over their gadgets. Why should only adults bond over scotch… that is far more debilitating than the Nintendo.
It is tough, for many of us; it still not is easy with all the gyan spouted here. But the day is not too far when my boss is a twenty something and I will no longer be the young one in the room! Maybe they will be better adept at managing us or will lament and write an article on how to manage that grey hair or no hair.
I have some ideas… while I compile them for my future boss and young peers, why don’t you send in your comments!
Elango R, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS and author of the book “You Don’t Need a Godfather”. You can read his blog on www.ElangoR.com and follow him on Twitter @agastyasays