We live in the era of the Tri-Gen Workplace.
Three distinctly different generations now need to work together in a highly collaborative way to create innovative solutions to problems that didn't even exist when two of those generations were born.
It's a tall order.
The key to success in this context is appreciating that the visible differences among those generations (preferences of dress, music, technology, behavior) are reflections of deeper, invisible ones.
In future posts, we'll explore those differences in detail. For now, let's just say that those differences arise from dramatically different ways of perceiving and thinking about the world.
Let's call those, generational mindsets.
Mindsets develop early in life. They're substantially the product of the culture into which we're born as well as the particulars of our individual and familial background.
Being born into an Italian family in the Bronx in the early Baby Boom, for example, provides a person with a dramatically different mindset platform than coming into the world on Manhattan's Upper East Side when Bill Clinton was president.
There are plenty of ways to describe those differences.
Jack Myers captures one intriguing lens into different generational mindsets in his new book, Hooked Up: A New Generations Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World. The book chronicles many of the ways that "Internet Pioneers," a subgroup of Millennials born between 1991 and 1995, view today's world and tomorrow's challenges.
In a chapter entitled, "Television Explains It All," Myers describes the Nickelodeon Declaration of Kids' Rights, written when the network launched in 1990. He calls it, "a mantra that Internet Pioneers grew up with and that defines how they perceive their rights and entitlements."
That last word, "entitlements" has become an emblem of generational differences, particularly in the TriGen Workplace. Baby Boomers and GenXers look at Millennials and see a group acting as if they can simply enter the corporation and have things go the way they want. Millennials, acting as if they were entitled to take on roles and responsibilities, and make decisions that, in the past, had to be earned with years or even decades of service.
Where did they get these idea?
Their generational mindset.
Most of which was passed along to them, wittingly or not, by their Baby Boomer parents.
Most of the time, we did so implicitly, teaching them through our actions that the values and beliefs that our parents passed along needed to be tweaked and strengthened to serve as the infrastructure for the society we were building; that we were striving for.
But sometimes someone did so explicitly, making a statement that planted the seeds for the mindset we would see working behind the Millennial's incredulous eyes in the corporate staff meeting 20 years later.
Like Nickelodeon's Declaration of Kids' Rights:
In the course of history, it has become pretty clear that all people are born with certain inalienable rights; among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But these rights haven’t always applied to kids.
And that stinks!
Now, 200 years after the creation of America’s Bill of Rights, this declaration proclaims to the world that you have rights too:
You have the right to be seen, heard and respected as a citizen of the world.
You have the right to a world that’s peaceful and an environment that’s not spoiled.
You have the right to be treated with equality; regardless of race, religion, nationality, sex, personality, grades or size.
You have the right to make mistakes without someone making you feel like a jerkhead.
You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice and hatred.
You have the right to an education that prepares you to run the world when it’s your turn.
You have the right to your opinions and feelings, even if others don’t agree with them.
The right to be seen, heard, and respected, regardless of age (or years of corporate experience.)
The right to make mistakes without some jerk making you feel stupid.
The right to your own opinions.
Generational mindsets aren't a mystery. They grow from early experiences in cultures and families.
What we're seeing in today's TriGen Workplace is the product of three generations trying to live up to the promises we've made to ourselves and our children for the last 200+ years.
But that doesn't make it easy...