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