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PERSPECTIVE: CHANGING DEMEANOR & WHY GENERATIONS BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY

At my recent presentation a Boomer member of the multi-generational audience expressed frustration (as they often do) that the Gen Y/Millennials don’t act properly in the workplace. Well, most of Gen Yers were educated and brought up in times of much looser standards of behavior than the older generations (Traditionalists and Boomers) were and many were not taught the typical expectations of workplace behavior. In college they could dress pretty much as they pleased, schedules were flexible, and advance clearances and permissions were not commonly required. So that’s what they are accustomed to.

By way of illustrating the differences, the special New York Times Education Life section (July 22, 2012) ran excerpts (courtesy of Catherine M. Allchin) from a Dorm Women’s Handbook from the early 1960s and a Resident Hall Contract from 2012. To quote from the 1961 Women’s Handbook:

Dorm Hours: Freshman are to be tucked into bed by 11p.m., and counselors will count noses at this time – upperclass noses too.

Permissions: To go home, sign out with the housemother and pay her for a 2-cent postcard. She will send it to your parents to let them know you are on your way.

Social Standards:  To improve in poise and social ease, students should observe and practice good manners – for example, by standing when an older person enters the room or approaches to speak.

Personal Appearance: Shorts may not be worn on campus except to and from PE classes, and then only when covered by a long coat.

The rules and expectations were clear back then.

Jump to the 2012 Residence Hall Contract by way of contrast. It deals with weapons and alcohol possession and use, personal safety, fire safety and the Gender Equity Hall. “Residents can choose to room with a student of any gender or gender identity. Restrooms in this hall are gender neutral.”

Whether you laugh at the extraordinary differences or yearn for some of the prior standards (as some parents might), what exists now has shaped a lot of young people. Employers are left with the responsibility and task of clearly articulating expectations from day one to set the standards they want to see. Neglecting attention to this early will enable undesirable habits of demeanor, schedules and boundaries to take hold, which will make them difficult to undo. Like it or not, understanding of where the behavior originated and communicating expectations in orientation training is necessary.

Please share your thoughts here.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

 

 

"GENERATION START-UP” VENTURES FOR AMERICA

A brilliant way for a Gen Y to get good training in an interesting job and provide small businesses the talent they need (if only it weren’t for student debt).

SITUATION ANALYSIS

  • Gen Y/Millennials need jobs and training
  • A large number of Gen Yers want to start a business, but have little or no knowledge and experience regarding what is needed to build a successful business.
  • Small (under 500 employees) businesses need eager, smart, flexible, people concerned more with learning hard-to-find skills in entrepreneurial environments than earning top dollar.
  • Many desirable college grads have student debt, which colors their career and job choices.

Note: The Gen Yers typically have a different mindset and way of operating from the “freelance mentality” of the Gen Xers of the dot-com era.

Challenge: How to connect the dots to benefit the aspiring but untrained entrepreneur and the businesses needing the talent, especially in struggling cities.

To meet this challenge, Venture for America, inspired by Teach for America, was started by Andrew Tang, former CEO of Manhattan GMAT, the test prep company.  As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the first 50 “fellows” will be placed in small businesses (under 500 employees) this summer for a 2-year stint. Tang’s goal is to help early stage businesses and start-ups take off, and he is targeting to create 100,000 jobs by 2025. At the same time, the young fellows will get the know-how and experience to start companies of their own if that’s their goal. According to a recent survey by the Young Invincibles (a group focusing on young entrepreneurship) 54% of 18-34 year-olds in the U.S. want to start a business or already have done so.

The companies employing the Venture for America fellows will pay them $32,000 to $38,000 a year plus health benefits, and the participants will receive a 5-week program at Brown University similar to training that consultants and investment bankers receive.  The companies get bright, eager young workers they can afford to hire and mentor. This certainly would seem to fill the bill, especially for recent grads not burdened by family financial obligations or heavy student debt.  Even so, it seems a good investment in their chosen career direction.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

 

PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION TRANSFORMATION: VISIONARY AND TIED TO REALITY

Consultant Alan Weiss wrote in his Monday Morning memo (1/9/12): “In corporate strategy, we paint a picture of the future and then "work backwards" to determine how to organize to reach it…. Why don't we start with a picture of future, productive work forces (knowledge-based, technical skills, globalized, working remotely, diverse stimuli, automated routine chores, etc.) and create both professional and trade education that will support it? Our current cookie-cutter concepts of curricula don't work now and aren't preparing students for the future. Organizations don't reach strategic goals by using techniques that led to old goals. They develop new techniques, resources, and ideas.”

Weiss was referring to education institutions, but what he wrote applies equally to most of the training provided by employers, even leadership and management education. With constant change in the marketplace and a disconnect between the skills of people looking for jobs and the types of skills in short supply, it is necessary for both employer-provided education/professional development and high school, college, graduate school and trade school education to be tied to future vision and global competitiveness needs. We need new definitions of “competence.”

What is being done in your workplace and in your profession to tie training to a strategic vision that will provide growth fueled by a workforce prepared to meet what the marketplace needs now and in the future, not in the past? Is your succession planning truly future oriented to meet the needs of rising generations?

 

 

THE CROSS-GENERATIONAL APPLE STORE EXPERIENCE

I wrote the piece below 3 weeks before Steve Jobs’ passing as a script for one of my Cross-Generational Conversation videos (others of which can be found on YouTube). So it is not really related, but it’s a tribute on an aspect of Apple that I haven’t seen in the tons of articles on Jobs I have been soaking up like a sponge. After one of my Apple One-to-One training sessions, it occurred to me what a truly vibrant example of cross-generational conversation the Apple Stores present.

24/7 you can see people of all ages shopping and playing together. And my favorite part is the superb training. I’ve been coming to the Fifth Avenue/NY store for my Apple one-to-one training for some time. I say it’s superb because the mostly Gen Y and younger Gen Xer trainers are not only savvy but also fun to spend time with. Even with my sometime tech frustrations, I always leave in a good mood. I find them to be courteous, eager for us to learn and helpful beyond what is required of them. I’ve had situations where they literally just won’t let me go and won’t let go of a problem they’ve never come across before, seeking extra help from whatever “genius” they can grab.

But back to the cross-generational aspect. It is not so unusual to see Traditionalists in their 70s and even 80s enthusiastically learning from 20 and 30-somethings exhibiting patience, pleasantries and professional demeanor. And there are plenty of Boomers like me – now learning moviemaking so I can build up my YouTube channel and other video exposure for my business. As a workplace generational challenges expert, this warms my heart!

And there’s more: My young trainers have really resonated with the content off my video podcasts on professionalism through generational lenses and participated in my survey. I’m thrilled!

Apple has created a great example of how cross-generational conversation enables all parties to learn from each other in a fun and non-threatening environment.  Steve Jobs has been hailed as a brilliant innovator and game-changer in many ways. I want to add the Apple in-person one-to-one training to the list. It not only helps to sell product – Apple’s business objective – but also facilitates the cross-generational conversation and inter-generational rapport that I believe is crucial for us to thrive in this unpredictable world.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com 

 

 

"GENERATION 9/11"

Gen Y/Millennials are a generation that doesn’t like to be categorized. Nonetheless, they are – and we all are.

Last week (9/4/11) leading up to September 11, 2001 10th anniversary observances, Joseph Kearns Goodwin was interviewed with his mom, historian (and baseball fan) Doris Kearns Goodwin, by David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” Joe had recently graduated from Harvard at the time and had enlisted in the military on September 12, 2001, motivated by the terrorist attacks.

Gregory asked him if 9/11 defines his generation. While acknowledging that the horrendous event and its aftermath was definitely an important formative influence, he doesn’t think it defines the generation. Rather, he said the Gen Y/Millennial generation sees what happens and goes on with their lives. That is his characterization of the generation. Nothing surprises them, and little shocks them.

There is resilience, he might say. Articles about the children of people killed on 9/11 point out their resilience, though there are many stories about the kids that are still coming to grips with how they were changed, still seeking recovery.

This generation, many with a great start in life and parental and other support, has been smacked in the face with 9/11, 2 seemingly endless wars and a relentlessly poor economy. How they will ultimately be defined is a work in progress.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

PROFESSIONALISM THREATENED: THE COST OF INCIVILITY

Courtesy, rudeness, incivility, and professionalism – the economic impact

Most of us have experienced or observed work-related rudeness, hostile behavior, obvious distractions when personal attention is needed, and worse. It’s annoying, no doubt, but there are significant costs to organizations from this aspect of unprofessional behavior as well as reported in “Incivility Can Have Costs Beyond Hurt Feelings” Shortcuts column by Alina Tugend, New York Times, Nov. 20, 2010]

Christine Pearson, a professor of management at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, has conducted research for a decade that documents that many workers left jobs because of continuing incivility – but they rarely say that on exit. Pearson is co-author with Christine Porath of “The Cost of Bad Behavior” (Penguin Portfolio, 2009). Their research covered 9,000 managers and workers and found that incivility was rampant in the workplace. Some examples are ignoring a colleague, gossiping behind colleagues’ backs, ignoring requests for help and borrowing supplies without asking – doing these things consistently, not a one-off. Interestingly, they found that 60% of bad behavior came from supervisors or levels above, 20% from people on the same level and 20% from people below.

Results of this behavior were: decreased effort on the job after experiencing ongoing rude behavior, slacking off or sticking only to the narrow definition of their tasks as well as exit of valuable talent. Apparently there is a sort of double-standard in many organizations. Employees are expected to treat clients/customers with respect, but there is little concern about how colleagues treat each other.

There are solutions; some are simple but not easy. Orientation meetings – when people first join an organization – can emphasize the importance and expectation of civility. Most important says Pearson is that top management model civil behavior and be willing to discipline all those who act badly or unprofessionally on a consistent basis, regardless of their success in other ways.

Other academics are researching incivility and taking up the cause of change. One is Pier M. Forni, a professor of Italian literature at Johns Hopkins University and co-founder of the university’s Civility Initiative. . Forni says “We are both ruder and more civil than in times gone by.” In referring to the latter, he says we are more accepting of diversity and have a higher ecological awareness. But classical courtesy is on the decline.

Professor Forni, author of  “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude” (St. Martin’s Press, 2008) attributes the major causes of incivility to anonymity, stress, lack of time, lack of restraint and insecurity. Anonymity provided by the Internet and ability to easily shoot off rants by text has lowered the bar. One measure to counteract electronic incivility of note: growing economic power South Korea teaches “netiquette” to school children at an early age.

I would wager a guess that few firms and other organizations have been tracking and calculating the financial costs of the civility transgressions component of unprofessionalism. Perhaps they should be calculating those along with the social costs. That would make the business case for training, coaching and disincentives for negative behavior.

Please contribute your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com

 

HOW DEEP ARE INTER-GENERATIONAL RESENTMENTS?

An ABA Journal online article (8/27/10) on how Gen X can bridge the gap and bring work-life balance to work unleashed a torrent of anger among three generations with accusations hurled back and forth in the Comments posted. The comments hardly even touched on the original subject of the article. In the attempt to express some rationality from a cooler head, here is what I posted:

If the anger in these comments is any indication of the generational divides in law firms and other organizations of lawyers, the profession is in big trouble. It seems the role of adversarial advocate has taken hold, and a lot of dialogue and conflict resolution is needed to not only settle the case but also build a strong foundation for multi-generational teams to enable continuing success for the long-term. If angry lawyers hold the same views about clients of another generation as they do of their other-generation colleagues, they will never be able to serve them well or retain client relationships.

For the most part, only the Traditionalists received any favorable comments from the Xer generation. Representatives of the other three generations hurled invective at each other. If this is all we knew of life in law firms, as both co-workers and clients we would waste no time in turning and running.

Perhaps it’s largely the strain of the terrible economy and either not having enough to do or being overworked as a survivor of lay-offs. In any case, it this outburst has brought such strong feelings to the surface, firms and other organizations need to address generational differences and conflicts ASAP if they expect to retain clients of various generations and serve them with high performing multi-generational teams.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com   

NEW WEB SITE LAUNCH

 I am thrilled to invite you to visit Practice Development Counsel’s newly designed and reoriented web site at  www.pdcounsel.com . With exciting new content added to the existing meaty resources, it is the premier site for solutions to multi-generation challenges in the workplace and how seeing issues through a generational lens can help to achieve better productivity, personnel and client retention, succession planning and business development results.

 

Over the years my practice has evolved with a generational diversity perspective from a primary focus on business development and marketing to incorporate a strong dose of organizational effectiveness. Our aim is to connect those streams on the site. I invite you explore, learn, ask questions and contribute your thoughts. And pass the URL (www.pdcounsel.com ) on to anyone you think it can help with their workplace challenges.

  

I’m very happy with the vibrancy of the site, which reflects my passion for color, lively environments, and provocative commentary. Enormous thanks to web designer and developer Josette Dewey of Sheffield Media Group for her talent, patience and persistence in dealing with such a huge amount of inter-related content to produce a cohesive, attractive, easily navigated site. She is a joy to work with!

 

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

TRANSITIONING: PROFESSIONALISM EDUCATION STARTS EARLY

A poll from the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE) at York College of Pennsylvania suggests the importance of professionalism to one’s career. Assessments of a new college grad candidate’s professionalism accounted for almost 60% of hiring decisions – of mega-importance in this languishing  period of scarce jobs, especially for young people with little experience.

Professionalism was defined by the business leaders and human resources professionals polled as having five primary characteristics: personal interaction skills, including respect and courtesy; communications skills, including listening; a great work ethic; being motivated and staying on task until the job is finished: and self-confidence, awareness, and professional appearance.

And the verdict from the poll as to whether professionalism has increased or declined in the past five years? One-third of the poll’s respondents believed than fewer than 50% of all new graduates exhibit professionalism in the workplace. The complaints will probably sound familiar; respondents pointed to a sense of entitlement for jobs, lack of work ethic and changes in culture and values.

We can argue the interpretation or severity of the problem, or why it exists – and I would, particularly about how work ethic is interpreted and whether all cultural changes are a bad thing. But perceptions are the beholder’s reality. What is being/can be done to resolve the problem?

Continue reading "TRANSITIONING: PROFESSIONALISM EDUCATION STARTS EARLY" »

BAD BEHAVIOR TRANSITIONS TOO

In the February issue of the Point newsletter Susanne Biro wrote about bad behavior of “otherwise talented, educated senior professionals“ she has worked with as a leadership coach. Among those behaviors are:

  • Lack of respect for others and their time
  • Rescheduling at the last minute or not showing up at all
  • Not returning phone calls or replying to e-mails and thinking it’s okay
  • Taking calls and e-mails during meetings

This indicates how they are likely to treat clients and colleagues. Biro wrote “It seems  professionals today have forgotten what it means to be professional. We have allowed each other to become lazy, as what was once considered to be rude behavior has slowly become acceptable.”

Generations Y and X have been criticized for similar behaviors. Where do you suppose they learned these behaviors from?

Biro referred to a term coined by Dov Seidman in his book How: Why How We Do Anythig Means Everything in Business - “out-behaving the competition.” He believes that those who treat others with respect and dignity will prevail. It matters! 

Phyllis Weiss Haserot       www.pdcounsel.com 

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