Prof. Development: X vs. Y

Gaia Insights July 2014 – Want some Tips on how to engage Gen X through Development?

From a Generation X perspective…

In our blog series covering the different elements that constitute the DNA of Gen Y engagement, this month we’re looking at Development. Our bloggers from Gen X and Y share some thoughts on development, what works best for their generation and how they view each other in the workplace.

Personal versus Professional Growth – My Personal Life is Mine

We Gen Xers hold our personal lives close to our hearts. What we do outside of work isn’t anyone’s business unless we want to share it with those we can trust. Gen X is thrilled to receive professional growth at the office but personal growth, really? Who has time for that!

We’ve always separated our professional life from personal growth and continue to do so today. We don’t expect personal growth in the workplace because we barely received personal attention, no less personal development, from our own parents. We learned how to be independent at an early age, leaving little room for anyone to tell us how to be successful.  We strive to be a “good employee” by putting our heads down to get the job done, because that’s how we’ll grow and that’s all we have time for.  This quote from a article states the difference precisely: “Gen X Lives to Work… Gen Y Works to Live!”

We were taught that sharing personal information can be harmful to job security… we don’t know who to trust and our employers might find out just how intense, demanding and stressful our personal lives are. As a Gen X working mother, I don’t want my employer to know where I am or what I’m doing 24/7 because he could use that against me. For example, one corporate director I interviewed dreads running into co-workers around town, fearing she’ll have to “talk shop” at a football game. We fear they may see our balancing acts as a threat to our performance. But trust me, it’s not. Gen X always gets it done, just don’t make us babysit Gen Y.

Mobile Learning – Are You Kidding Me?

“Back in the old days” when corporations had bigger budgets for bigger training seminars, getting invited to a development seminar was a sign of success… “Wow, they want ME to become a leader!” We could check out from most of our daily work to hang with the big wigs because we thought we were special. But technology and budgets have changed the big wig seminars for better and for worse.

Development through mobile learning or online training sounds ideal. For the employee, you read at your own pace when and where you want, can tap into the leading experts like on Lynda.comand can learn without any interruptions that you’d get in a classroom. For the employer, it’s more cost-effective than in-person seminars. But if my boss emails me a 20-hour training course to read online and expects me to read it on my own personal time, I’d be quite unhappy.
Gen X has a very structured life to manage and on a Saturday night we have to read our teenagers’ Instagram, not able to read for job growth on a weekend.

So Gen X is willing to do mobile learning, understanding the efficiency and flexibility, but there are some caveats: Online learning is only worth our time if we can inquire, communicate and activate the information with colleagues. Because if each employee does everything in a silo, our sandbox skills will turn into a food fight without any loyalty to the company or to each other.

Role Model –  Having and Being a Role Model Will Expedite Your Career

I strongly believe in Role Modeling. For many successful Gen Xers and Boomers, role models were key to our professional development. When I was in a management training program, I was fortunate to have an awesome role model, a senior-level female who invested her time in making me a better presenter, manager and leader. She was my role model for years and while our personal lives were very different, it didn’t matter at all. We adapted to each other’s schedules because we respected each other.

Unfortunately Role Modeling is a form of development that exemplifies the controversy between Gen X and Gen Y. Gen X thinks, “I have no time for demanding Gen Y” while Gen Y thinks, “Gen X just doesn’t get me”. Gen Y continuously complains that they have a hard time finding a good role model (besides their Boomer parents who taught them to be ego-centric). Of course, they will have a hard time if they don’t learn to understand Gen X colleagues who could be their role models. Many Gen Xers such as working moms integrate their personal lives into professional lives because they have to and they do it well. So Gen X and Gen Y have to learn to understand each other in order to learn from each other. 

While time is precious for the multi-tasking Gen Xer, Gen X needs to tap into Gen Y’s knowledge because if we don’t, we can go stale. Like volunteering, nothing is more rewarding than sharing your expertise (with a Gen Y who appreciates it). According to Psychology Today: “When employees have ethical leaders, they like them better. Just as importantly, they will behave in more positive ways within the organization. Clearly, it’s to everyone’s advantage to have supervisors who are positive role models.”

So keep the chain going:  Gen X had role models so it’s our turn to be role models. And Gen Y – be grateful that the experienced (and busy!) Gen X takes the time to be your role model.



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