By Mike Weiler
Recently my team read “Sticking Points,” by Haydn Shaw because we noticed our workforce contained members from all four generations:
- Born before 1945 – Traditionalists.
- Born 1946-1964 – Baby Boomers.
- Born 1965-1980 – Gen Xers.
- Born 1981-2001 – Millennials.
The book helped our team understand the 12 different sticking points that can pull the generations apart or together:
- Communication – What is the best way to interact with my coworkers?
- Decision making – How do we decide what to do?
- Dress code – How casually can I dress?
- Feedback – How often and in what ways do I want input?
- Fun at work – How much fun at work is allowed?
- Knowledge transfer – How do we pass on critical knowledge to new employees?
- Loyalty – When is it okay to move on?
- Meetings – What should happen in our meetings?
- Policies – Are policies rules or guidelines?
- Respect – How do I get others to respect me?
- Training – How do I learn best?
- Work ethic – How many hours are required, and when must I work them?
Many people try to think of ways to solve the challenges of these sticking points. The key discussed in the book is not to look at them as problems that need to be solved, but as areas of strength to be leveraged for the benefit of the team. We can only truly lead people when we stop trying to change who they are and start to appreciate them for who they are, and we can’t do that until we understand them.
Sticking Points does a great job giving the reader background on the events that created each generation. Even though 1945 wasn’t that long ago, learning the history of the events of the time and how they shaped the work environment is eye-opening for readers of all generations. Remember, we are reading to understand each other and to do that, we need to understand the events that surrounded our upbringing–the book calls these “ghost stories.” Here is an example of the ghost stories that shaped the Traditionalists:
- The Great Depression–The Great Depression made the Traditionalists more economically conservative, and that conservatism spread to other areas of their life.
- World War II–Traditionalist learned to sacrifice their individuality for a cause and learned to listen to authority and take orders.
- Moving from the farm to the city–The farm life gave the Traditionalists the strongest work ethic of any of the generations; if they didn’t do the work, the job didn’t get done.
- Mass marketing and confidence in experts–The golden age of radio (1920-1940) was also the start of mass marketing. Thanks to the elements mentioned above, the Traditionalists connected and trusted the guidance of experts. They didn’t question doctors or lawyers, and many still don’t today.
It is important that each generation understands the other generations’ ghost stories and how they shaped that generation. At that moment, the generations can see how they connect to each other and start to leverage each other’s strengths.
Of course, there is still tons that can be written in this article about this topic, but I would encourage you to purchase this book and have your team read it with you. It is a really great experience if you are able to get a few different generations in one room and discuss the ghost stories and learn how to come together. Each generation brings value to the team, and the quicker your organization is able to capitalize on it, the better for you, your team, and the organization.
Check out Sticking Points and start getting unstuck.
Mike Weiler is director of sales for Rydin.