Posts Tagged ‘Baby boomers’

Have you noticed that the actions of some people often cause you stress and frustration? Does interacting with certain colleagues, bosses and/or direct-reports in the workplace cause your blood pressure to sky rocket?  Have you ever wished you could do something about it?  Well, you can!  You can get those behaviors changed.

(Note that in this series we’ll be talking about changing a behavior, not a person. Understanding that a person’s behavior is separate from the person himself [or herself, we use the masculine form to represent both or either] is fundamental to changing our or anyone else’s behavior.  Later posts will explain this in more detail.)

We have identified at least five distinct types of stress-producing behavior:  Day Dreaming, Comparing, Time Traveling, Gut Reacting and Grade Schooling.  Let’s look at examples of each.  (Warning: you will think of people you know when you read these descriptions and you may see yourself here!)

  1. Day Dreaming:  We sometimes say a person must be day dreaming when they seem unaware of their surroundings.  Such people can cause serious stress in others without realizing it.  If confronted they may be genuinely surprised. One glaring example is the order-taker at the restaurant drive-through speaker who mumbles or stringsallthewordstogether.  He causes stress for customers who must repeatedly ask “what?”, for the kitchen staff who keeps getting incorrect orders returned and for the manager who must apologize to frustrated customers. Another common example is the person talking very loudly into a cell phone, disrupting the peace and quiet for everyone within hearing distance – – –  usually the person is completely unaware that there ARE people around, not to mention the effect his loud voice is having on them.  At work, this can be the boss who provides poor direction and blames others for the resulting confusion (expects employees to read her mind) or routinely and cavalierly says hurtful things about others in public. It can also be the colleague who embarrasses himself and others with inappropriate jokes or sexual innuendos, totally unaware of the pained looks on the faces of onlookers. People who are Day Dreaming are often oblivious to the stress they cause in the lives of others.
  2. Comparing:  This is the often-subconscious act of looking at the happiness of another person and comparing it to your own mental state.  Some people are only happy when they come out on top in such a comparison.  They are happiest when others are miserable.  When they act on these comparisons they can cause lots of stress in others.  People who think this way will disrupt a pleasant conversation by interjecting a piece of bad news that instantly changes the feel of the gathering from happy to sad.  Or they will use a “yes, but” maneuver:  “Yes, winning the office’s sales contest would be great for our team but we are short two people and we have never been able to do it before.”
  3. Time Traveling:  This behavior is generation-driven; the Baby Boomer who cannot stop herself from asking everyone who gets to a meeting even a minute late “What time does the 9:30 meeting start?”; or the Gen Yer who cannot resist asking the Baby Boomer having cell phone problems “That advanced technology giving you problems there, Grandpa?”  The result is always more stress.
  4. Gut Reacting: People who routinely use this behavior are seen as the quick-draws at work, the people who always have a fast come-back to any comment.  But they also often omit the think step that should always occur before the speak step.  Their fast, knee-jerk response leaves no time for thoughts of “should I say this?” OR “will it hurt someone’s feelings?” OR “how could this comment be taken?” The result is often wounded pride and stress in others.
  5. Grade Schooling: This behavior is usually motivated by revenge, jealousy, power-trips or other markers of immaturity.  Examples include sabotaging an initiative at work so the originator fails; calling attention to yourself (even negatively) because you need the constant reinforcement of being noticed (poor self- image); or doing something just because you can even if it causes stress in others, for example driving continuously in the left lane of a superhighway so you can keep other people from driving 56 mph in a 55 mph zone.  People who do these things seem to be stuck with only the emotional maturity they had in grade school – – – they just never grew up.

In upcoming posts we’ll show you how to deal with each of these behaviors.  You’ll see how to first decide whether to intervene, then how to get the person’s attention, and establish some rapport (if possible), and lastly how to request a change in the person’s stress-inducing behavior.  We’ll show you how to do these things in the workplace but the techniques will also work well when shopping, in restaurants, with the family at home and in lots of other situations.

And if you think there are other categories of stress-inducing behavior, beyond the five we mentioned above, we’d like to hear from you.  Email me at Mack@SolidThinking.org

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

In our last post we talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y hire, to help ensure a successful entry into the group.  In this last of a series of four posts we will see what Gen Ys themselves should be doing to quickly become a valued contributor and team member?  We suggest focusing on six key behavior clusters:

  1. Listen and learn. You almost never learn when you are talking. And in any new job you have a lot to learn.  But most people don’t listen well – – –  they merely pretend to listen while they compose a response to what they are hearing.  To break this habit, take notes while others are speaking.
  2. Know how your boss likes to communicate. HBR still has available online the classic paper “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker.  Every boss, employee and new-college-hire should read those 11 pages. New GenYs should ask how their bosses and peers want to communicate.  Is your new boss a listener, talker or reader?  This is crucial information.
  3. Join the team for the long haul. One mindset likely to frustrate you and your management is to overly focus on having a sudden intuitive brainstorm that changes the company or launches a new product and catapults you into the President’s office!  Understand that the financial success of rappers and Hollywood stars and others who, with seemingly limited talent have secured nearly unlimited wealth is very, very rare.  Seth Godin calls this phenomenon “The Purple Cow” and his book, same title, is a great read check it out at).  Focus on helping others, learning all you can about your job and becoming a valued member of the team.
  4. Be tactful. *This is the exception to the previous advice to always “Say what you mean”.  Words are powerful things especially when spoken to or about people.  The key here is to separate a person’s behavior from the person.  Only correct a person’s behavior, never labeling the person as problematic.  Another rule that helps me is to never say something about another that I haven’t already said to them.
  5. Be open-minded. Look for things you can learn, not just from other Gen Ys but from Gen X, Boomers and Traditionalists.  These other generations have seen and done things you won’t get to do for decades, if ever.  Some jobs in an organization require experience and that takes time:  you cannot assign three women to the job and grow a baby in three months instead of nine!  Learn from the unique perspectives, experiences and stories of the other generations.  Keep a journal of ideas, possible projects, ways to improve things, etc. and use it in your employee performance reviews with your boss.
  6. Be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do, every time.  And if an unforeseen (and hopefully unforeseeable) problem looks like it will derail your plan, advise anyone who needs to know.  Give them an early heads-up of the possible change in plans.  Under promise and over-deliver.  Control the expectations of others and then surprise them.

Now here is a last-ditch technique for any deeply entrenched Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists out there, stuck in their old ways of thinking and unable to accept Gen Ys into an organization. If nothing else works for you, not the sensitivity training, not the classes arranged by HR, the great videos by Jason Dorsey nor even your boss’s warning that you need to “get with it and learn to play nice with the new-hires”.  Then try this: Train yourself to think of Gen Ys as belonging to a foreign culture.  That’s right, think of them as being from another country entirely.  You don’t expect foreign nationals to behave like you do.  With their different cultures, values and standards for behavior, we expect them to behave differently.  Do the same for Gen Ys.

We have seen this little mental trick prevent the eye-rolls and other knee-jerk reactions some older people have to some of the occasional stereotypical behaviors of Gen Ys (showing up late for work, telling established managers how to do their jobs, texting while you are conversing with them, jumping across multiple layers in a large organization, etc.).  And if we can break the older person’s stimulus-response chain by adding an interim “thinking” step that says “hold on a minute, this Gen Y person’s brain is not wired exactly like mine”, we can perhaps help older workers accommodate the newcomers.  We are going to need Gen Ys’ outlandish ideas and bold thinking to tackle challenges in the years to come because none of us is as smart as all of us.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

If your company is hiring Gen-Ys (aka Millennials) fresh out of college, you will be eager to get them folded into your operation and feeling part of the team.  But you will need to handle this cohort of youngsters differently than any other generations entering the Western workforce.  At first glance, you might ask “So what is different?  After all, Gen-Ys are doing the same thing other generations have done before them: Leaving college friends and lovers, settling into new job and meeting new people.”  And that is true and the typical corporate socialization techniques designed to ease the transition of new employees from college to work – – –  social mixers, assignment of mentors, integrated product teams, etc. – – – will also be useful for incorporating Gen-Ys into your organization… OR one could get really creative with ideas such as these, to bridge this gap.

But it will not be enough because there are other, much more complex dynamics at work in the recently-employed Gen Y community.   We know this because we teach courses in Project Management and we have had some eye-popping, private conversations with Gen Y attendees about their job environment, their stress levels, their egos, expectations and fears.

Gen-Ys have an additional layer of issues affecting their mindsets and, hence, their job performance.  More than any previous generation, Gen-Ys:

  • Have grown up with iPods and near-constant music.  This is the first 100% iPod ™ generation and music has been a near-constant companion for them while driving, walking, jogging and even while studying or working.
  • Are accustomed to very frequent social contact with friends via texting, IM and Skype.  Boomers snicker at the typical Gen-Y texting with friends every few minutes and are amazed when they first see Gen-Ys on their phones while watching movies and sporting events.   Tweeting their remote friends about the movie or ballgame, and even Tweeting with friends right there in the crowd with them, is commonplace for Gen Ys.
  • Believe in a “flat” equalitarian culture, where levels of organization do not exist.  As a freshman in college a Gen Y could email (or call or visit) the President of the university, on almost any subject, and the President would discuss the subject, and thank the student for being straightforward and for bringing the problem to light.  “Chain of Command” is usually an alien concept to any Gen Ys who are at their first jobs and who lack military experience.
  • Have developed comparatively fragile egos and rely on frequent feedback on how they are doing in each class and with their friendships.

So the next time a Gen Y, new to your workplace, behaves strangely or does something you as a Gen-X or Baby Boomer might consider odd put yourself in their shoes:

  • The comfortable, predictable college world they have known for 4+ years is completely gone.  Professors with whom they could negotiate grades and arrange for “extra credit” work when needed have been replaced by a boss who is part of an entirely different culture, and embedded in a more rigid hierarchy of departments/divisions run by anonymous bureaucrats.
  • The social fabric that held their lives together is missing.  The face-to-face contact with college friends and professors is gone; only a poor electronic substitute is now available to them remotely through texts, Facebook, Twitter and cell phone calls.
  • A music-rich college world has been replaced at work by endless meetings, discussions and conference calls.  Colleagues and bosses constantly pop by the cubicle for chats, causing the iPod ™ ear buds to be constantly popping in and out as well.
  • They are functioning in this new world very much “in the blind”, without the comfort of frequent homework assignment and class quizzes to confirm their understanding of a subject and their comparative standing among peers.  Now there is no paper graded “B” to show the Gen-Y where they can improve performance.  In a new job, just when they desperately seek feedback, they get little or none from their bosses until a scheduled performance review occurs (once or twice a year, quarterly if they are lucky).

There are some simple things we can do to fix this disconnect between realities of the workplace and the expectations of our Gen Y colleagues.

In the next post we’ll learn what bosses, and Gen-y workers themselves, can do to ease the college-to-work transition.   And we’ll recommend a new frame of mind for Gen-X and Boomers to help fold-in the Gen-Ys who, if the rest of us are ever going to retire, must take their place in the workforce.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation