Connecting with the Generations

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Generation X, the ‘latchkey kids’ of America, were the first generation left to their own devices with two working parents from the time they were young. They got from home to school, to activities and back home with a key around their necks, building the confidence and independence that helped them achieve great success in their future careers. They also work longer hours/weeks than previous generations, attempt to ‘do everything and be everything’ at home and at work and are always ON.

On the other hand, Millennials have a reputation for being coddled at home, driven to and from activities, over scheduled with academics, sports and extracurricular activities, and praised for even the smallest accomplishments. Their self-esteem is tightly linked to all of this praise and they are more likely than any other generation to venture out on their own: starting businesses, and designing their own careers. They expect more in terms of work/life balance and have little loyalty to the large corporations they witnessed laying off their parents and thousands of others during their lifetime. So how can these two generations bridge the gap and find ways to work together, reducing their stress and frustration? What can each learn from the other?

Stop Judging

One of the biggest issues my clients face is connecting the different generations within their departments. Comments like “They just like to be coddled…” or “They overact to everything…” don’t help the situation. We first must stop making a judgment about the “good” and “bad” things that different people tend to do. If we start from a place of putting judgment aside, we will work towards acceptance and a place of collaboration.

Start Asking Questions

Try coming from a place of curiosity. Questions like “I am curious why that is important to you?” Or “What would success look like?” or “Tell me more…” all help to find out what is going on for that person. Determine who they really are and why this is something important to them. If you can learn more about them, you may understand more where they are coming from and what need they are trying to fulfill.

Define Their Values

Values are motivators for a person. Determine what it is that inspires them and what is uninspiring to them. Think about the values of your organization and what values might be disrespected for these individuals. Consider whether the things you are holding on so tightly to need to be held so tightly. For example, if there is a value of acknowledgment, how does it step on your values to give them out? Does it take that much more time? What will you receive in return if you tried doing it? Is it worth not doing it since it is a value that has such importance to others?

Create a Path to Purpose

Every person has a purpose. When they are living and working towards that purpose they are going to be engaged, when they are moving away from it they will be disconnected. No matter what the generation – help identify the gift that person has, where their passion is and what change they are working to make in the team, organization or the overall world.

Ask: “What Can I Learn?”

What is it that you can learn from this person? What do you want to take on that would serve you, your team, your organization or your family? Perhaps the thing that irritates you most about someone from another generation is because it is something that you want for yourself but never thought you could have. What is it that they know or believe or do that perhaps adding more of could make your world a better place?

Want to learn more about how to work better with different generations? Check out our book The Future of Everything: ‘Narrowing the Generational Divide’, page 57

About Sojourn

Sojourn Partners is a results-driven executive leadership coaching firm that empowers the professional workforce to think differently in order to realize the full return on investment in themselves and their companies. Professional leadership thinking and intervention, based on years of research and experience, place Sojourn Partners at the forefront in executive leadership coaching, organizational development, strategic planning and culture and climate change.


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