Is It Possible to Assess Our Ability to Connect with Other Generations?
By Tim Elmore
Janet experienced trouble at work just two weeks after she hired Rory. In their weekly meetings, Rory began expressing his distaste for the department’s current strategies. He described their team as a big “L” (meaning “loser”) and said he didn’t know why they weren’t implementing better ideas.
Everyone glanced over at Janet, wondering how she’d respond to his audacity. She was livid, to say the least, but remained poised as she invited Rory to her office following the meeting. She closed the door and accused Rory of being disrespectful when he questioned her leadership in front of others. Rory was equally appalled, shocked that Janet wasn’t open to new ideas. He felt “dissed.” She always “preached” that theirs was a learning organization. The meeting ended with no resolution.
Both Janet, the hiring manager, and Rory, the 24-year-old team member, felt disrespected.
The fact of the matter is, the disrespect both people felt can be explained by the generation from which they came. Janet is a 59-year-old Baby Boomer who expects ideas to be introduced in a respectful manner to authorities. Rory is a young professional who believes in “keeping it real” and felt he really didn’t have a “voice” at the table.
This kind of frustration happens multiple times each week on teams around the world.
Age Discrimination in the Marketplace
Did you know that age discrimination lawsuits are on the rise, across the U.S., from both young and old? Major companies like IBM, Marriott, WeWork, Google and others have been sued by older team members who felt they were passed up for promotions because they were old. Young team members sued their companies because they felt they didn’t get a raise because they were too young. Many of these lawsuits surprised company leaders.
Why? Because we all tend to be chrono-centric. This term means we assume our generation or the time we grew up in is more important and impressive, and we often cannot understand why others don’t see the world the way we do. We’re stuck in the chronology of our own lifetime. My questions are:
- Is it possible to understand the mindset of other generations?
- Is it possible to connect with them well if we’re not like them?
- Is it possible to assess ourselves so we can adapt and lead them wisely?
Let’s face it: Parents argue with their young adult children over values. Supervisors debate with their young employees over communication preferences. Coaches become irritated with the attitudes of freshman athletes. Teachers become frustrated with disrespectful students. My questions are: Can we break out of this rut? If so, is there a way to evaluate our fluency as we try to communicate with other generations?
What’s Your GQ?
I’ve given lots of thought to this issue. In response, our team has developed an assessment to measure your generational fluency. We call it your “GQ,” or your generational quotient. For years, we’ve taken assessments on our cognitive intelligence and emotional intelligence. And just like we can measure our IQ and our EQ, it’s possible to assess our GQ. This test enables you to evaluate how well you understand and connect with the other generations working next to you.
Today, there are four or five generations at work or on a school campus and too often, we clash instead of collaborate. It begins with misunderstanding. Then comes frustration. Soon, we reach an impasse. Along the way—we begin to stereotype:
- Those baby boomers are all stubborn.
- Those Gen Xers are all skeptical.
- Those millennials are all narcissistic.
- Those Gen Z kids are all fragile snowflakes.
Instead of stereotyping, we need to understand. I’d like to invite you to take this GQ assessment. It is absolutely free and lets you respond to questions and conclude how well you adapt to leading multiple generations on your team. In minutes after taking it, you’ll receive your results in your inbox, with a short article and suggestions for how to better connect with the other generations next to you. Find out your GQ now.
One more thing: I’ve written a book designed to be an encyclopedia and dictionary for you to connect with the various generations around you. It’s called A New Kind of Diversity: Making the Different Generations on Your Team a Competitive Advantage. It officially releases October 25th, and you can preorder it now to get bonus gifts such as a keynote video of me teaching on this subject, a bonus chapter, an article that includes part of my generation chart, and guidance on leading multiple generations. You can grab your copy here: NewDiversityBook.com.