Gen Duh not Gen X

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

When I am not agonizing over adoption, I am, in real life, a communications professional.  I am currently responsible for employee engagement. Employee engagement is a concept that is generally viewed as managing discretionary effort. More clearly this means that when employees have choices, they will act in a way that furthers their organization’s interests. An engaged employee is a person who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work.

My specialty in the engagement arena is communications.  I counsel and advise executives on what to say, how to say it, how often, when and using what words. I take those words and often rewrite them. I do a great deal of ghost writing. I manage our division intranet. I script and develop videos. I design and produce marketing collateral and branding material. I organize large meetings and social functions. I help with presentations and advise executives on tone of voice, dress, style, and how best to avoid verbal diarrhea.  I encourage everyone I know to read books like "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots".

Most people think my job is pretty "cool". It is creative and allows me to write and utilize a variety of mediums. I work on strategic initiatives as well as execute a great deal of tactical, hands on work. I work with all levels of our management team and get a great deal of exposure. I am an individual contributor and I am paid well. I am allowed to telecommute and flex my schedule to meet the needs of a working, single mom. I have a good manager. I feel valued and respected. My company is the fourth largest in our industry. We have over thirty thousand employees and $2.9 billion in net income in 2007.  In two weeks I will get my annual bonus which is always chubby.  I will use a portion of that bonus to fund a trip to Ireland.

I really cannot complain. With all the obvious perks, what I tend to appreciate most is the daily learning.  Today, an interesting article appeared on my desk. I should have read it with my current employee base in mind but instead I thought of adoption (how shocking!).  The article, an excerpt is found below, was titled "How Years Affect Careers".  The author attempted (and was successful in my opinion) to highlight the needs – and benefits – of a multi-generational workforce.  In reviewing it, I found myself thinking of the multi-generational adoption afflicted.

Adoptive parents are often much older than first parents.  First parents have difficulty relating to adoptive parents. Adopted children are caught between generations. They were, in some cases, raised by parents who are the same age as their natural grandparents. First parents often have more in common with their children than the adoptive parents and this can become painfully clear in reunion. And SOMEHOW we are supposed to get along and respect each other.

How to navigate these waters?  Maybe this will help. Consider this description of todays workforce:

Background: Children who remember the Depression and/or World War II, appreciate employment and career continuity.
Common characteristics: Strong work ethic, extensive job experience. Often perceived as frail or inflexible.
Comments: "People are sometimes afraid of radio babies for health reasons," says Throckmorton. "But radio babies want people to recognize that their bodies and brains still work. Those hiring people between 60 and 80 tell us they’re the most productive workers they have."

Background: Boomers grew up with post-World War II prosperity and TV; entered the work force when "career path" meant a single company ladder to climb.
Common characteristics: Hard workers, experienced and loyal. Sometimes seen as "stuck in their ways."
Comments: "A lot of people are reluctant to hire boomers, thinking they’ll retire soon," she says. But changing retirement scenarios often inspire boomers to second careers. "They want to keep going. They want a better work-life balance. And their second career is often much different than the first one."

Background: Latchkey kids, often from dual-income homes. Entered the work force at the dawn of the Computer Age.
Common characteristics: Independent, flexible, technologically diverse. Can be perceived as self-absorbed or disloyal.
Comments: "This is the first latchkey generation," says Throckmorton. "So they’re very used to surviving on their own. They change jobs more often, so they put less stock in company loyalty. So, they can be seen (by elders) as impatient with their careers."

Background: Raised in a fast-paced, violence- and media-saturated, technologically booming world.
Strengths: Energetic, innovative. Can be viewed as arrogant or defiant.
Stereotype: "Gen Y’s are sometimes called ‘Gen Why?’ because they question everything," she says. "They look for the value in what they do, and are less inclined to confer respect upon someone because of a title."

Gen Y, my daughter, perhaps arrogant or defiant?  This was HUGE for me. Is her behavior towards me, at times, not necessarily a reunion reaction but perhaps, a generational behavior? I don’t live with a Gen-Y person. How could I know what their typical behavior is? 

Big duh.  I should have known better.  Off to read more about Gen-Y.  Not only did I give birth to one, but I am now having to direct corporate communications to that audience.

How con-veeeeeeeeeeen-ient.

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