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Separate “Dialects” on Cultural Phenomena: Are the #Generational Disconnects Worrisome?

Frank Bruni’s recent New York Times Op-Ed column, “The Water Cooler Runs Dry,” is another story of how the ability to custom-tailor the information we keep up with is a double-edged sword. He was bewildered that his Princeton University students were totally unfamiliar with celebrities of yesteryear whom he mentioned in class.

We now customize what we read and hear to a large degree. People create their personal niches of information and exposure rather than gathering at a cross-cultural, cross-generational “water cooler” or “public square.” Common reference points are fading away. With so much specialization and almost infinite categories, a book can become a best-seller with the sale of many fewer copies than in the past before self-publishing became easier and respectable.

A Princeton colleague of Bruni’s, Hendrik Hartog, director of the American Studies program says the enormous amount of specialized knowledge “leaves an absence of connective tissue for students.” Another colleague, Daniel Rodgers, calls it the “age of fracture. 

Makers of commercial entertainment don’t have to chase a mass audience and can produce programs on cable TV or alternatives with cult-like followings. While Bruni can also see some upside, he wrote, ”Each fosters a separate dialect. Finding a collective vocabulary becomes harder.”

It’s clear that’s the way things are going. Should we be worried about what is lost in translation with these diversity disconnects?

Please comment and share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com 

WILL GEN Y “FEED THE PIG”?

A new national online survey sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Ad Council confirmed some widespread and potentially troubling characteristics of young workers (age 25-34 now), the major segment of the Gen Y/Millennial workforce. The survey provides a foundation for the “Feed the Pig” financial literacy campaign, a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) urging that generation to build long-term financial security by thinking independently and foregoing short-term gratification through living beyond their means.

Here are some of the findings, which confirm  (or reinforce) and quantify the extent Gen Yers are led by peer pressure, fear of not belonging, and the attitude that in an uncertain and volatile world, grab what you can now. (As the saying goes, “Life is short; start with dessert.”)

  • 78% model their financial habits on their friends’ habits.
  • 66% want to keep pace with where friends live.
  • 64% want to be in sync with what friends wear.
  • Similar percentages feel pressure to go to the types of places their friends eat at and use the types of gadgets they carry.
  • 61% still get financial help from their families.

As a consequences a large portion of that age groups miss bill payments and rack up substantial credit card debt paying for necessities. Financial stability means paying all their bills each month for 70%. This is a short-term view, the desire for immediate gratification.

The fact that Gen Y/Millennials are strongly influenced by peers’ lifestyle purchases indicates the depth of their need to “belong.” Also they expect to be able to rely on their families. These attributes are portrayed humorously in the ad campaign developed pro bono by kirshenbaum, bond, senecal + partners (kbs+).

But there is a very serious side emotionally, beyond financial literacy. In his essay, Looking for “Likes” in the New York Times Education Life section (11/3/13). Andrew Reiner, who teaches at Towson University in the Honors College and English Department, comments on the self-pressure he observes in his students’ generation: “ A small but growing body of evidence suggests that excessive social media use can lead to an unhealthy fixation on how one is perceived and an obsessive competitiveness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this angsting can also lead to an unhealthy quest for perfection, a social perfection, which breeds an aperture-narrowing conformity.”

A few brave souls, wrote Reiner, admitted to fearing peers’ judgments for writing something stupid, or worse, something that “set them apart.” They feared expressing a different opinion would make others dislike them. “The ultimate goal? Racking up ‘Likes.’”

Yes,of course there has been some degree of fear, peer pressure and conformity in every (young) generation. But the level of parental protection and social media exposure the youngest generations have experienced does magnify the problem.

One hopes the Feed the Pig campaign makes many converts. The independent thinking habits regarding financial security can result in growth and self-actualization in other aspects of life and work.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT ON INTERGENERATIONAL COLLABORATION

I received this note from my dynamo Cornell extern, Jaime Freilich, a junior at Cornell University and campus representative to the Clinton Global Initiative University:

“I was at the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting, and I had the pleasure of hearing Madeleine Albright speak. She said something so relevant to everything you work towards. The gist of what she said is that in order for our country to be forward-moving, intergenerational conversation and collaboration is imperative because the younger generations have the creativity, energy, and idealism to think of creative solutions to problems while the older generations have the practical experience to ground the young ones and to work together in pursuit of a better tomorrow. I thought it was very interesting and I had to share with you!”

So true. Jaime knows my strategic purpose is to facilitate and foster intergenerational understanding, appreciation, cooperation, collaboration and action. This goes way beyond bridging the communications gaps, though that is integral to it. Our future strength depends on it – as businesses, institutions, families and the kind of world we want to live in.

Along these lines, one of my favorite aspects of my work is facilitating dialogues among people of different generations in business settings. My monthly newsletter is called Cross-Generational Conversation (sign up at www.pdcousel.com). And I’m vey excited to start a Linkedin group also called Cross-Generational Conversation, with a multi-generational group of committed contributors.

Jaime will be there. Will you? I invite you to join the conversation. Maybe we can even get Madeleine Albright to comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

ATHLETIC GENERATION GAP: HEADS-UP TO RECRUITERS

#generations. You know Gen Y Athletes are serious about social media when they only respond to scouts/college coaches by Facebook and Twitter, not phones. ”Coaches New Friends

 

GENERATIONAL DIVIDE RE: USE OF INTERNET IS CLOSING

According to a new report from Pew Internet and American Life – the 2010 Generations Report – age as a determining factor of technology and social media use seems to be losing significance.  While age continues to play a role in how individuals use the Internet, the Report found that age is no longer key in whether an individual uses the Internet.

The 2010 Generations Report found, among other things, that:

  • Accessing health-related information online is now the third most popular online activity for all Internet users regardless of age. Previously, using the Internet for this purpose had been considered common only among older users;
  • Internet users over the age of 34 were more likely to use the Internet to access government and financial information than those under the age of 34;
  • The percentage of adults who watch video online jumped from 52% in 2008 to 66% in 2010; and
  • Although social media/networking sites continue to be more popular with younger users, social media experienced its sharpest increase among older Internet users; namely, users age 74 and older.
  • These online activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups: e-mail, search engines, getting health information, following the news, researching or making purchases (including travel reservations), online banking, supplying reviews or ratings, donating to charity, and downloading podcasts.

Details about the Pew research results can be found here and here

As the use of technology increases among all demographics, clients will be less likely to hire professionals who are unfamiliar with technology and are non-users themselves. This is a key consideration in working and communicating with clients of a different generation. 

The Pew research documents the belief that we should no longer blindly assume that being tech-savvy means being young. Another piece of evidence that we must challenge our assumptions about age-related capabilities and preferences.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot

REINVENTION: WORKPLACE CULTURES THAT ATTRACT THE NEXT GENERATION

To find out firsthand what Generation Y/Millennials want and expect from the workplace and employers, Human Resources Executive magazine (February 2010 issue) held a roundtable discussion with a group of Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) seniors. The seven students, class of 2010, have had work experience and internships to draw experience and articulately express opinions from. Here is a summary.

Attributes of an Employer of Choice

Stimulating office culture; Positive impact on the world; Genuineness

Ideal Level of Job Feedback

Direct communication and feedback constantly - a two-way street; Feeling the supervisor is actually invested in the employee; Feeling comfortable giving feedback to a supervisor; Regularly scheduled meetings when total attention is given with all external communication turned off

Significant Learning from Internships

Importance of office politics; I may not be as valued as I expected, but rather am being used as a means to an end; Often not given the "big picture," which would have helped me to contribute more, but people are

Continue reading "REINVENTION: WORKPLACE CULTURES THAT ATTRACT THE NEXT GENERATION" »

BOOMER-GEN Y BUSINESS LINK: CLOSING THE DIVIDE FOR PROFIT

Despite the so-called Boomer-Gen Y gap, there is much evidence of natural similarities and synergies. This  belief is backed up by a recent survey by Knowledge Networks for the Center for Work-Life Policy. Laura Sherbin, an economist with the Center said the two generations work together well because they both want autonomy and flexibility.

As reported in "Finding a Guide for Online Networking" by Elizabeth Pope in the New York Times (October 15, 2009), the survey of 1,5 95 people indicated that 40% of older adults had asked their younger colleagues for help with text messaging, iTunes, and social networking. In fact, there is a distinct phenomenon developing for the web-savvy to help their elder colleagues or even strangers build second careers online. Since over 40% of Generation Y participates in online social media, according to the research, they sometimes pick up and refer job leads they come across online to their elders.

The Times article relates some examples of young people helping Boomers and Traditionalists start businesses online. One Boomer interviewed got help from people in their 20s and 30s that she met through her local Chamber of Commerce and BNI International. They even gave her advice on managing clients and setting fees.

What's great about this generosity of the Gen Yers is their eagerness to share information with not only their peers, but anyone who is interested in and appreciates their help. That's got to be an optimistic sign for the future of work. I love it! Let's all, as individuals and organizations, capitalize on this cross-generational collaboration, reverse and mutual mentoring.

Please share examples of this phenomenon whether personally experienced (other than with children) or observed in the workplace.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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