Friday, August 1, 2008

Generational disagreements

There was an interesting article on one of my (personally) favorite blogs, Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist. She posted a blog written by Clay Collins, author of the blog The Growing Life. He is Gen Y who seems for the moment to have checked out of the work force and has some ideas as to why his generation may be more productive than ours. Or anyone else's. Interesting but some were just plain wrong, at least for me.

He wrote:
1. We use the best tools. Big whoop, I do too and I am twice your age. And still enjoy it. Some people, regardless of age, generation or gender keep learning. And implementing. And not getting stale. And tools aren't the only thing that make businesses run. We need minds, ideas, colleagues and collaboration. Tools are great but they are used by people.

2.We’re good at automating. Terrific - so are a multitude of other professionals with whom I work. Some of even OVER 50. Vision and learning for some people never stop. Tools are a resource to implement vision, along with the business or department mission, planning and workflow.

3. We get better sleep. ( I loved this one, especially since I am a very early morning person) He writes that the best employees follow circadian rhythms - stay up late and get up late. Again, fabulous concept except we have CORE BUSINESS HOURS. Believe it or not, I can't tell my customers - you know, my circadian rhythm says that I should work 4pm to 8pm. I am sorry that you can't access benefits or that your paycheck is wrong - it's a shame, really. But I work THESE hours. And last I checked, if you live on the West Coast, and you want to trade, the NYSE isn't changing its hours. Check your Strengths Profile for Adaptability. It comes in handy.

Much of the blog's perspective is about changing lifestyle and bucking conventional ways of lving and working. For CS/IT/IS fields - and some others - there are fields for a very flexible, fluid work force. But the majority of people work in a standard work environment, requiring resources, assistance, time and access when THEY need it, not when I want to provide it. Not everyone hates this world. I love my job, my work, the problems, peculiarities, people and product. So the perspective that there is but one way to live is naive. Not everyone is unhappy.

Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet about work:

Then a ploughman said, "Speak to us of Work."
And he answered, saying:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.

Work is love made visible.


HR Wench said...

Generational generalizations are very popular, and I believe some of them are true myself. At the same time, saying one gen is intrinsically better than the other is down right silly. That is like saying women are better than men, or something equally ridiculous. No one is "better".

Sure, some generations are probably better "in general" at certain things than others. But that is not true for every single person in that generation.

I met a woman at BlogHer who is from the Silent Generation (before the Boomers) and she has written books on HTML and CSS!

Training Time said...

Just a suggestion - Shouldn’t we all try to learn from each other, rather than pointing out others’ weaknesses?

“No one is better,” like HR Wench said, and no one is worse. Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses that others can learn from. Whether they exist or not, we should try to embrace our generational differences and learn from one another.

Jane Chin, Ph.D. said...

To Clay's credit, so far many of the profiles he has featured for his spin off blog (Finance Your Freedom) are members of Gen-X, including my own liberation story (I belong to Gen-X).

I think Clay recognizes that while his generational peers may be more stereotypically entrepreneurial, the lessons of time that those of us "older folks" have weathered have helped us gain a level of life wisdom and personal insight that are often timeless.

By the way I used to be a night owl and late riser in grad school. I became used to early rising and sleeping at a predictable time-frame. Even after becoming an entrepreneur, I naturally woke up early and found that I was very productive during the early hours. Many assumptions about circadian rhythm came from lifestyle choices, not necessarily evidence-based clinical studies.