When researching my group project topic on age demographics in the workplace, I thought I’d blog about the generational differences I experience in my own workplace. I’m particularly interested in younger managers working with older generations like the Baby Boomers. I know I’ve mentioned my workplace before in other posts, but just to recap – I work as an academic advisor in VCU’s University College (UC) department. The UC advises all first year students to help them transition into college and attain academic success. Currently, there are 30 full time advisors who work with every type of major. Our Executive Director is a Gen-Xer. Not including my boss, our advising team is made up of 13 Gen Y (including me), 12 Gen X, and 6 Baby Boomers. What does this tell you? I’m use to working with people in my own generation and haven’t personally come across any generational conflicts. The age demographics in my own workplace also supports the current research findings that most of our current workforce is made up of Gen Xers (McDonald and Hite, 2008, pg. 87).
Most of the Baby Boomers I work with are extremely up to speed with technology. One of our Baby Boomer advisors is a School of the Arts advisor who does his own graphic design work (which means he’s probably better at computers than I am!…actually I know he’s better 🙂 But really, I don’t think we need to immediately jump to technology skills when it comes to the Baby boomer generation. I’ve done some research on the Baby boomer generation and they have so much to offer the work place. One of the committees I am a part of is currently revising a textbook. The committee chair is a Baby Boomer who is extremely structured, task orientated, and focused. He’s a great note-taker, so when a bunch of us “Gen-Yers” go off on idea tangents and big picture thinking, he keeps track of it all. Bottom line is that every generation adds value. It’s up to leadership to leverage that value in an organization.
I read another case study during my research that talked about the Titanium rule (very much like the “Golden Rule” we think of) that says most people want to be treated with respect, and so we believe we’re doing the right thing by treating others with respect, but the titanium rule means understanding each generation’s ideas about what respect looks and sounds like (Raines, 2013). In my workplace, we are made of of counselors who do a great job at respecting others by valuing each other’s opinions and making sure to listen to everyone (sometimes to a fault when it comes to time constraints); therefore, I think each colleague understands the level of respect necessary to connect to one another and get things done.
Areas that I noticed could be improved upon is gathering more information on our stakeholders (i.e. our students) and gathering more data (both quantitative and qualitative) about their demographic. As advisors helping students learn, we want to meet the student where they are developmentally. Yet, I feel there is a lack of active research on the Linkster generation (aka the Facebook generation) in my workplace. The Linkster generation is defined as those individuals born after 1995 (Johnson, 2010, pg. 7). Since I’m in the middle of editing a textbook geared toward that generation, I’m curious about how they would read (or not read) certain sections that we, as advisors, feel are very important. More information gathering about that demographic could help us enhance our programs, textbooks, and learning systems.
I can’t say enough how this class and even this blog have helped me focus on areas to address in my own workplace – I think I’m on to another research project idea!