Sunday, December 04, 2005

Identity Crisis

I just spent the week conducting supervisory training with two manufacturing companies in Minnesota. The training we were doing was leadership training to give them a technique for solving problems they have with people they supervise and one of the recurring themes was the work ethic of the "younger" workers.

One of them mentioned that when he was in his early 20's he moved away from Minnesota to take a job on the East Coast, and he said that at that time it was very easy for anyone from the Midwest to get a job out there because they loved that "Midwestern work ethic."

I've heard that from my peers as well. There's just something about the way we were raised, I guess.

But what I'm hearing from these supervisors now is that the younger workers - those in their early- to mid-20's - don't possess that same ethic. The man who went out East to work when he was younger said he even sees it in his own son. He, and others during this conversation last week, said that the younger workers seem to feel entitled and privileged and some of them seem to think the work is beneath them, even if it is their first job (apparently "older" workers know something about having to rise through the ranks in a certain order).

My question is about generations. I understand the Baby Boomer generation mentality I think. And I know there is a division somewhere in the mid-60's when it switched to the Gen-Xer's. But where do people my age fit in? I was born in 1963, so I'm wondering if I'm more a Boomer or more an Xer. When the supervisors are talking about the younger workers, am I the one talking or the one they're talking about?

I don't relate 100% to either group, so I'm wondering if there is a special designation for people my age. I think it's exciting to be where I am at the age I am right now. I see things quite differently from people just a few years older than I and I also understand a little bit about those just a few years younger. So maybe we are the bridge between the two generations and can identify with each so we can bring them together.

What are you seeing in your workplaces? I'd love to hear about it!


At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jodee, your post sparks a couple of personal thoughts...

I think a large part of the generational friction comes from what the exact expectation and definition of "work ethic" is. Here's my experience: the distinctions in work ethic between Boomers and GenXers is not one of better or worse, merely different. The game of work and life has changed dramatically, yet our own understandings tend to get stuck.

Ask a GenXer about the work ethic of a Boomer, and you're likely to get tales of fathers who put the company before their kids. Ask a GenXer if they're out for entitlement and privilege, and the reply might be that they might not just want to work and play, but pursue interesting side work. They may not leave it all on the line for the company as Boomers might, but I doubt that its a question of work ethic, just the need for reinterpretation.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Jodee Bock said...

Great food for thought, Chris (and thanks for the perspective from the GenXers!).

I so appreciate your thoughtful and spot-on interpretations and willingness to share your ideas with me (and the world)!


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