Generation M – or Generation “Own Pace”? May 26, 2009Posted by Stacey Thornberry in : Author: Stacey Thornberry, Office life , trackback
I belong to a few groups on LinkedIn and like to follow the discussions for news in the communication, events and meeting industries. In my recent update from LinkedIn summarizing the discussions from the past week, I found a thread that sparked my interest in the Elite Meetings International, Inc. group. (Side note: I helped plan the first ever Elite Meetings Alliance in Santa Barbara, California as one of their interns, where I found my niche in event planning.)
The discussion was titled, “Any suggestions on working with generational gaps?” and was elaborated with, “Zap the Gap next Thursday with DCI Groups at the Westin City Center!”
I’ve seen many inquiries like this before, but what struck me was the first comment in the thread. Forgive me for copying and pasting the entire thing here, but I don’t think the link to the discussion will work for everyone:
“Very carefully from what I have experienced in recent months. My take on working with the latest generation to join the work force is that they are really bright, and talented; however they want to work on their own terms. Their sense of urgency and mine are two entirely different matters. I tend to multi-task and keep more than one project in the air at a time — while they very carefully work on one thing at a time, and at their own pace.
I have also noticed that instead of sitting down and taking a contract and reading it, they prefer to ask you to tell them everything important in the contract. A friend of mine refers to this as “spoon feeding” — they verbally want to hear the high points, not have to read them and comprehend. In one particular instance it was indicated that the meals would be consumed in b/o rooms — and the person asked me where the meals were to be held. I paused, knowing it was clearly indicated in the schedule and I countered with, “what does it say on the schedule”. The intern countered with, I really don’t understand, please explain to me where the meals will be served. So I asked again if she was unfamiliar with the terminology used on the schedule. At that, she got up and went to the Director’s office and advised that individual that she was here to learn as much as possible, and that did not include working in an environment where she was “challenged” to decipher abbreviations.
My point was I wanted to see if she would read, comprehend and answer her own question — but it became obvious she wanted her questions answered without having to deduce or think strategically or logically. I suspect this comes from being the generation that has always had a computer at their finger-tips and anything they wanted to know was input and the answer popped back at them instantaneously. So trying to get them to think on their own is a rather foreign concept.
One very interesting item was that as more and more assignments were given to this individual they began to work later and from their home computer. No problem as I do the same thing — except they had their mother calculating the cancellation penalty schedule and doing the budgets on the excel spreadsheet I have devised and provided.”
Yes, a very long comment, I know. I responded to this discussion because it struck me personally. I first recommended some materials available by IABC (ask me if you’re interested; trying to save space on this already long post) and then gave some personal reactions:
“Also, in response to the first comment, I find your observations interesting. I love multitasking and getting many things done at once, but was told to slow down and concentrate on one task at a time to make sure not to make any mistakes. Your suspicions about wanting to be “spoon fed” information might be truthful – having the Internet at our disposal has made my generation expectant for simple answers and immediate feedback, but I think we’re also willing to learn and take on a challenge.
I find it unfortunate that you happened to encounter a Gen Y member who did not jump on this challenge at understanding and instead took the easy way out. I hope you can work with other Gen Yers who can provide you with a more positive experience.”
I was prompted to comment because I recently had a discussion with my supervisor who said, “I know you like being busy, multi-tasking and having multiple balls in the air at the same time.” I could do nothing but agree.
When I first started at IABC, I was dinged in my review for not taking enough time on projects. Also true. My supervisor constructively (and politely) told me to go slower, spend more time reviewing the details and double-, triple-, quadruple-checking my work (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration). I took this to heart and worked hard to fix this and believe I have.
I find the comment in this discussion intriguing because of what Janna and I mentioned in our first post: “We’ve even heard us referred to as Generation M—as in, a generation of ‘multitaskers.’” Sure, I know some members of our generation who prefer to do one thing at a time, but I believe they’re the exception to the rule. In today’s times, we need the ability to do multiple things at once, manage many projects and keep up with the array of deadlines we have.
My secrets to success:
- Many, many lists all over my cubicle wall—some with dates followed by what’s due and others simply listing items I need to do, perhaps without a set deadline
- Putting deadlines and reminders in my Microsoft Outlook calendar
- Spreadsheets to keep me on track
- Communication plans
- Supervisors who hold me accountable for my actions (as well as my own drive to perform well and on time)
This is another prime example of the risk associated with judging all by experiences with few.