The X vs The Y: The Potentials Of The Generational Divide In The Workplace

The Main Divide.

Experience. Expertise. Practice. These are your hard-earned values. Your co-workers should respect them, be inspired by them even. You expect it to be this way, but sometimes it is not. With everything happening so fast lately, it is fairly probable to feel out of control. Or out of place altogether.

The working world has endured dramatic transitions in the past ten years. Many of the reasons why the work places changed are not intrinsically related with the working world itself, but with the sociodemographic and technological revolution that Humanity has undergone. Immigration, social media, better access to education — you name it.

Far from being ‘cliché’, globalization is a pretty good explanation for the most common issues in the working world.

‘But first, who am I?’

If you were born between the mid 1960’s and the early 1980’s, then you are Generation X. Your work is your life and your passion. It is what makes you who you are. You have been working in your field for what, ten? Fifteen years now? You certainly know your way around the business. Which begs the question: if you are this seasoned, why the out-of-place feel?

As above mentioned, things move faster now. And the composition of today’s workforce is more complex than ever.

Of Babyboomers and Millennials.

The times a ‘Gen X’ has lived in and the political events they have experienced made them more open minded. Differences in sexual orientation, religion and race mean little to them. The ‘Gen X’ likes teamwork, and that is why they have to be able to embrace the diverse.

But what about generational differences? The Xs have been around the working market for at least 30 years. They were used to be the youngest, the revolutionary, the counter systemic. The ones who had all the answers, the know-it-alls. In comparison to old Babyboomers — those born between the post WWII years and the mid 1960s — Xs are very progressive and disruptive.

The challenges of diversity.

And now Xs have to deal with Ys. Not just deal: lead, work with and sometimes under them. The Generation Y is what we like to call Millennials. Born between the 1980s and the year 2000, their main feature is their technophilia. They are digital natives, because they spent most of their formative years in close contact with technology. Maybe they were not born Internet users, but became so at a very young age. The digital has become their natural environment.

The Generation X is full of digital immigrants. The most successful among this age group had to adopt technology, for they were not born in the Internet age. Since the most thriving business today are technology-related, a curious disposition is key to success.

Becoming acquainted with something unfamiliar may be hard, but there is something even harder — seeing others deal effortlessly with tools and processes you strive to manage. This is an added source of frustration.

The icing on the cake is the ethnic diversity, a byproduct of the strong migratory currents that the world has been experiencing. Diversity is always enrichening, or at least it should be considered that way. But the fear of the unknown is innate to humans all the same — a situation that should be addressed.

Dwight from The Office, specialist in political correctness.

Back to you, dear member of the X generation. We have already stated that you are well seasoned in what you do for a living. But most of the people working under you are either from a different generation, from a different ethnicity or both. They do things in a different way, they use a particular jargon and they move really fast. You may be used to discuss everything over the phone, but they will e-mail you. Well, not even e-mail you — they will text you. 2010 was six years ago.

How to fill the Generational Divide gap.

If communication is the problem, communication is also the solution. The first step to create a common tongue between two different groups is, basically, to understand why they are different. Where do you come from, dear X? Well, you were born in the times of savage capitalism — work is both the means and the end. You started working for a company, eventually made your way up and this is where you gonna stay.

The thing with the Ys is that they were born to borderline workaholic parents, and do not want that for their lives. Millennials value their free time highly, because many have seen their parents give their lives to a company but got nowhere. They even hate cubicles, and prefer open work spaces. Do not get me wrong, Millennials are committed — not with a company, but with themselves. They will always jump at a better opportunity, if such should appear.

A Millennial work space.

Ergo, one of the main concerns of every CEO, VP or manager is how to retain their valuable employees. It is actually quite simple: Ys will respect Xs expertise if Xs meet Ys needs. Well, that did not come out so good.

Let’s try again. Millennials are preset to think that companies are basically evil. X gens feel threatened by new technologies. What if both could meet half way? If a company values its workforce, it should treat their employees accordingly and give them opportunities for personal growth. If Xs are awkward with technology, there is nothing wrong with that — because Millennials will be there to help.

The Generational Divide is there to enhance whatever you produce — content, ideas, goods or services.

So, dear X: if you feel threatened by what your “underlings” can do in the blink of an eye, there are many things you can do. Congratulate them. Try to learn from them. Guide them.

You just stay creative.