Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I didn’t know this is where the sidewalk ends…

Hey Xers! Did you know Shel Silverstein wrote regularly for Playboy? Who knew the children’s author had a bawdy side?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“Don’t dump on the old people” and other survival lessons I learned from a 9 x 9 cubicle

Recently, I almost got into a pissing match with a guy named Mike who ridiculed a comment I made on the Brazen Careerist website. But then I decided why waste my energy on Mike when I could waste my energy on my own blog.

Basically, here’s how it went down: Ryan Healy, who I would go as far as to call a blogging rock star, posted the 10 things that Gen Y is going to do to change the workforce. Here they are:

1. Hold Only Productive Meetings 2. Shorten the Work Day 3. Bring Back the Administrative Assistants 4. Redefine Retirement 5. Find Real Mentors 6. Restore Respect to the HR Department 7. Promote Based on Emotional Intelligence 8. Continue to Value What Our Parents Have to Offer 9. Enjoy Higher Starting Salaries 10. Re-invent the Performance Review

So I’m reading this and thinking, “Hmmm. That’s kind of insulting to anyone who is not part of Gen Y (mainly, me).” Seriously, how much bravado does it take to announce that your generation will be the one to hold only meaningful meetings?

I decided to make a little fun of Ryan. I like him. I hold him to a higher standard. I think he can write good things about Gen Y without slapping the rest of us in the face by omission.

Here’s what I wrote:
#11: At the end of each fiscal year, everyone will get a medal and a certificate of appreciation signed by their direct supervisor!

#12: On their birthdays, each employee will get a CD with a birthday song written just for them!

#13: Each September, the company will round up all the Gen Xers and ridicule them for their sarcasm and negativity.

#14: Each October, the company will round up all the Boomers and force them to participate in Amigo races.

#15: And each November, the company will round up all the Millennials and give everyone a star on their forhead for being such great team players!

That’s funny, right? Well, apparently “Mike” doesn’t think so. Here’s what he wrote:

“The Generation X/Generation Y divide that GenerationXpert illuminates with her/his sarcasm troubles me. Is it really so vast and really so accurate? Ryan identifies legitimate points in his post, and “Xpert” marginalizes them unfairly. Sure, propping up such a divide between generations benefits some of the folks (perhaps GenerationXpert?) who are trying to make a career out of being a Gen X or Gen Y expert, but it’s a lot of heat and no light for the rest of us. There are more things that unify us than divide us.”

First off, I’m sure you will agree that Mike needs to lighten up a bit. After that, I’d like to tell him that the biggest lesson I learned from having only boomer bosses and at least 75% boomer co-workers over the past 15 years is that you should never – I’m serious, NEVER – pump yourself up as the next hot, young, new thing by announcing how you and your generation are going to fix everything everyone before you has screwed up.

The reason is not that it hurts peoples’ feelings or that it’s an inaccurate account of what you can actually accomplish. It’s because with age comes patience. And that older person will wait for the opportunity to take you down a notch – or 10.

For real. That old dude who you insulted may not even seem to register what you said - or wrote. But when the time comes. The time you are not expecting it. BAM! Knife in the back.

So that’s why I needled Ryan for his post. He’s right, Gen Y will benefit from all the changes he mentioned. But will they drive them? Probably not. These ideas have been around since the members of Gen Y were singing “I love you, you love me” with Barney.

Maybe it's just a life stage thing

Last week I conducted a one-day workshop on generational communications with a group of administrators at a community college in Michigan. An interesting idea came out at the end.

When discussing the challenges of working with Gen Y students, I asked the Boomers in the room if these were the same complaints that they had about Gen Xers 10 or 15 years ago. They said yes. Do they still have these issues with Gen Xers? No.

So that got me thinking: How much of the resistance in the workforce to Generation Y is just because these folks are in their 20s and most people in their 20s are in transition to what will be their adult personality?

I'm on the fence here. I do think there are challenges working with 20-somethings regardless of the era. However, there are things that stick with you throughout the rest of your life that are not life-stage related. For instance, a Boomer asked me why Xers seem so negative. I told her, we really aren't, we just think it's cool to be edgy. And we want to be cool.

So, maybe Gen Y will dramatically impact the American workplace. What do you think?

Monday, May 19, 2008

GenerationXpert recommends...

I have a great new blog to recommend:

What's really cool about it is that blogger Andrew Krzmarzick writes from a government perspective. And as someone who worked in a public institution for nine years (Delta College), I know that the whole world is not the "business world."

So check out his blog!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm offended...and a little bummed

Yesterday there was a post on Brazen Careerist that got my blood boiling. The basic jist of the article was that chicks rule and dudes drool. A Gen Y woman wrote the piece and when I posted my disdained she responded by saying that the GenerationXpert misunderstood.

I say I do not misunderstand. I say that we have swung from, "men are superior" to "women are superior." And I hate it. Men and women are definitely different, but neither is superior.

I sent the link to most of my friends, and only Kristina went to the site and expressed her disdain for this rhetoric. That's why I was kind of bummed. My husband said he was too busy drooling to post.

Here's the thing: we are dissing the men and boys in our lives and we shouldn't. I'm old enough to remember a bit of sexism (I tried to be an alter boy and was thrown out of the alter boy meeting when I was in 4th grade). But you can't have it both ways. You can be down on men and not want men to be down on women.

So here's what I think: equal means equal - it does not mean I am superior.

Monday, May 12, 2008

May the force be with you

Last night I was watching the movie Star Wars on television. Guilty pleasure, I guess. However, as I was watching, I came to a conclusion: Luke Skywalker is a Gen Xer.

As I watched the movie, Luke’s experience mirrored the Gen X experience. And as I thought about the other episodes in this film series, everything started to come together.
It all started with a couple of peace-loving Jedi Knights – Obi-wan and Anakin. They were trying to make the galaxy a better place. I thought to myself, “Self, isn’t that kind of like the Boomers in the 60s?”

So then Anakin wants more. More power. More everything. Kind of like a Yuppie. He’s willing to do whatever it takes. At this time he sires two children who he doesn’t raise. Granted, he didn’t know they existed, but the result is still the same: Luke Skywalker is left to fend for himself.

Now the Empire has taken over. And everything has changed. The good-old-days no longer exist. Kind of like the 1970s.

At the same time, Obi-wan becomes this guy who is holding on to his ideals. He’s still wearing his Birkenstocks and he’s still trying to make the world a better place.

And in the end Luke Skywalker eventually shows his dad that he should strive for peace again and he saves the galaxy. Kind of like the Xers will save the environment.

So okay, I came up with this after two glasses of wine, but I still thought I’d put it out there.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Twitter is the new solitaire

I admit it. I’m now a little bit addicted to Twitter. I can’t stop reading the updates from the people I’m following. I can’t stop posting pithy things about what I’m doing at this exact minute. I just can’t stop. If I didn't telecommute and still worked in a maze a cubicles this would be even better than solitaire in terms of passing time and looking busy.

The cool thing about the evolution of media that is going on is that you don’t really know where it’s going to go. I think back 10 years ago when I was working for a PBS affiliate. We worked in the media and we weren’t sure what digital television was going to evolve into. We’d go to conferences and they’d tell us that in the near future we’d all be sitting in front of a television with a computer mouse so we could click on Jerry Seinfeld’s shirt if we wanted to buy it.

And now we have Web 2.0. When I first heard about it through my work, I admit I had to look it up. And now I’m blogging like a fool, networking, making friends.

So this Twitter. Right now it’s just a little hobby of mine. I’m even putting my updates on my blog (learned from the Brazen Careerist bloggers that you need to personalize what you write, you know.) And I like it, because it’s totally a pull communication at this point. Nobody’s shooting me messages I don’t want. But where’s it going? Can’t wait to see.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gen Xers have rockin' hair

I'm in a bad mood today, so I'm posting these pictures to cheer myself up.

I am going to argue that Xers had the best teenage/early adult hair of any generation.

The silents had the Richie Cunningham hair - ick.

The boomers had long stringy hippy hair - unflattering

And the Millennial boys are running around with girly curls - yikes.

Nothing says work-life balance like a Gen X retro mullet. Business in the front, party in the back. You know it's cool.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Perception versus reality: What do Socrates and the Boomers have in common?

I saw this article in the LA Times by Kathy Kristof that was supposed to a primer of sorts for the Millennials entering the workplace. I found it insulting - and I'm not even a Millennial. How much of this "down with the Millennials" rhetoric is based in fact and how much is based in people getting old and cranky.

One of Kristof's big arguments is that Millennials did not have as many part-time after school jobs as previous generations (I have no idea if this is true - my guess is it's not) and therefore did not learn key work lessons like "don't wear flip flops on casual Friday." What I learned at my after school job was how to fry cockroaches on the grill without getting caught. I also learned not to lean on anything, because "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

The article immediately made me think of a quote from Socrates:

"The Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for adults, and love to talk rather than work or exercise. They no longer rise when adults enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter in front of company, gobble down food at the table and intimidate their teachers."
--Socrates (469-399 B. C.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Boomers ruin college experience for Millennials

Time Magazine is reporting that university campuses are adding retirement villages to attract empty-nest Babyboomers to campus.

Now it's been a long time since I went to college in the 1990s, but seeing my dad at a kegger was not the experience I had in mind. Neither was meeting my mom at Cafe V to study for finals.

Recently, there have been many, many reports in the decline of male college graduates in America. Could this be related? It's kind of hard to pick up a hot chick if you're sitting next to your mom in freshman comp.

So, okay, I was being the glib Gen Xer that I am. But seriously, universities need to focus on our young students. Seriously, Boomers had their time on campus. Do we really want a country 20 years from now full of uneducated men in their 40s?

Newsweek determines Gen Xers NOT slackers

You got to love the popular media. Newsweek has decided the Generation X really is NOT made up of worthless slackers.

Thanks, guys. 15 years too late. But thanks anyway.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

New! Generations quiz

When you see this picture, you think:

A. That looks tasty

B. Cholesterol - bad egg!

C. Hey, that's my brain on drugs!

D. What does an egg have to do with anything?

If you answered:

A. You are a "Mature"

B. You are a "Boomer"

C. You are an "Xer"

D. You are a "Millennial"