But they didn't know these things. And neither do most organizations or families. Sticking points are inevitable, and they often get teams and families stuck. But they don't have to. The same generational conflicts that get teams stuck can cause them to stick together.
Stuck in the past or sticking together going forward: it's a matter of turning a potential liability into an asset. And it's not that hard to do, as you will soon discover. (In later chapters, I'll pick up the stories of Cindy, Stan, and Hector and share the advice I gave them about working through their generational sticking points.)
"THEY DON'T GET IT"
The most common complaint I hear from frustrated people in all generations is "They don't get it."
"They," of course, means a boss, coworker, or family member from a different generation who the speaker believes is the cause of a problem. And in my experience, "it" usually refers to one of the following twelve sticking points—places where teams get stuck:
3. dress code
5. fun at work
6. knowledge transfer
12. work ethic
Anyone in today's workforce can identify with most, if not all, of the twelve sticking points.
"They don't get it" is usually a sign that a sticking point is causing problems. Team members of the same generation begin tossing around stereotypes, making comments to each other about the "offending" generation. Each generation attempts to maneuver the others into seeing the sticking point their own way.
Surprisingly, "They don't get it" can also apply to those who think we shouldn't put people into generational categories as much as to the people who launched the "OK Boomer" memes and T-shirts, or the Boomers whose arrogance inspired them. (It's my life's mission to help workplaces so Boomers won't be viewed as "OK Boomer" coworkers and the younger generations won't need to mumble the insult under their breath.) Both the judgers of other generations and the judgers of those who talk about generational differences make the first mistake—viewing a sticking point as a problem to be solved rather than as an opportunity to be leveraged. The goal becomes to "fix" the offending generation or generational conversation rather than to look for ways to work with other generations. The irony is that when we say another generation doesn't get it, we don't get it either. Or when we say people who recognize and talk about generational differences don't get it, we are dismissing their perceptions and concerns. Once we get it, we realize that these sticking points are more than generational differences. They are catalysts for deeper conversations that can, if done right, build understanding and appreciation. Sticking points can be negative if you see them as problems or positive if you see them as opportunities for greater understanding and flexibility. Sticking points can make things worse or better depending on whether the five generations can work together in the twelve places they naturally tend to come apart.
We'll spend the next two chapters looking at why generational sticking points usually get teams stuck, and we'll see how we can change them into the emotional glue that sticks teams together to achieve exciting results.
FIVE GENERATIONS: THE NEW REALITY
Generational friction is inevitable today because we've never had five generations in the workplace.
Different researchers label the generations—or more technically, "age cohort groups"—using different terms. For simplicity's sake, I've summarized the most common names along with each generation's birth years so you can see where you and others fit.
I'll use the term Generation X (or Gen X for short), even though the members of that generation don't like the label. Who can blame them? It came from the title of a book about a lost and rootless generation—and X is often a symbol for something that's missing or an unknown factor. But unfortunately, that's the name that has stuck.