Generational stereotypes can be experienced in abundance in our everyday world. As a marketing strategy, these stereotypes use generalizations to target and sell products. Later these same stereotypes have been adopted by HR organizations to develop strategies around everything from company culture (how do we create workplaces that attract the millennials) to hiring practices. Yet with 5 generations working side by side, this exclusionary approach doesn’t solve issues, it creates them.
How many of us define ourselves by our generation? Do we look across the table at someone of relative age and think because he/she is of the same generation we have the same beliefs and experiences, that we approach the world the same way? How many of us can relate to someone of a seemingly different generation and think I actually have more in common with that person.
Because we are working more closely together, because we are sharing common experiences at different ages, we are blurring the lines. Women are having babies in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, sharing new mom stories as if they were all one generation. People are starting new careers multiple times in their lifetime, reinventing themselves at different ages, going to or back to school at different ages. These create common experiences across generational lines.
I personally, am tired of checking the box for my age group. How old I think I am on any day changes and rarely do I see myself as my chronological age. Therefore, I now declare my age lives on a continuum. And so I navigate the generations with ease, and I employ ways to connect with people as individuals with interests and experiences I value. And when a generational stereotype sneaks up on me, and I find myself feeling excluded or boxed in, I use that as an opportunity to open myself to learn something new. Learning is generationally agnostic. So I invite others to think about generations as a continuum, one not defined by chronological age, but by how we feel on any given day. See how it changes how you view the world.