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Leveraging Generational Differences to Drive Success

Team Working cc poughkeepsie Day School

Today’s guest post is from Cam Marston, President and Owner of Generational Insights. He is an expert on the Demographic Trends and Generational Bias Impacting Work & Sales. This post is a companion to the Voice America interview with Cam to air on March 8, 2016.

How important is workplace atmosphere to a millennial? Apparently it was important enough to at least one of them to blow off one of the premier employers in her desired profession.

Hannah Gordon, a journalism student at St. Bonaventure University, recently shared her thoughts about a visit to the New York Times in a letter to TAPinto.net. The Times is considered by many journalists to be the pinnacle of the profession, a place to which the most ambitious reporters and editors aspire.

Gordon, however, saw it differently, noting her disappointment at finding a “near-silent newsroom” instead of “the bustling, comradery-filled (sic) newsroom I imagined.”

“My visit,” she concluded, “made me realize it was sterile journalism.”

Gordon did not give examples of work produced by the Times that she considers sterile, but seemed more concerned with the newsroom environment, saying she knew she “wouldn’t fit in with the culture” in a place where she couldn’t “fully express my creativity and quirkiness.”

She illustrated her point by noting that an internship coordinator at the Times may not have appreciated the “shooting stars and flying bats” on her portfolio.

While Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers will laugh this off as a millennial living down to the stereotype (and wonder what kind of journalism student would show up to the New York Times with stars and bats drawn on her clips), we also must assume that Gordon isn’t alone. Finding a collaborative atmosphere and an outlet for their creative passions is important to millennials – and finding talented millennials is important to employers.

So who should give? Should employers like the Times reconfigure their workplaces to cater to the desires of millennials like Gordon? Or should Gordon realize that not every office is going to feel like the campus newspaper?

There’s no one right answer here, but my hunch is: perhaps a little of both.

As more millennials flood the workforce, many workplaces are moving toward environments that foster the kind of collaborative atmosphere for which Gordon seems to be looking – and one day, even the Times may join them. It makes sense for companies that want to attract and retain the best and brightest to make sure their office environments are going to be seen as an asset.

But millennials like Gordon also need to understand that it isn’t the job of a workplace to fulfill their every desire. It’s to get work done. Very few of us, no matter the generation, are fortunate enough to find a job that feeds all our ambitions and interests. Many of us find other outlets for our creative and quirky sides that aren’t satisfied at work.

Perhaps Gordon will find a job that meets all her expectations. Or maybe she’ll have to temper those expectations to find a job.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

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