Jennifer Deal is the Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and the Project Manager for the Emerging Leaders Research Project which analyzes similarities and differences between generations regarding their perceptions of leadership, learning, and values. Deal’s work focuses on helping people learn how to interact more effectively across differences of all types, specifically generational mixes. In her book Retiring the Generation Gap: How Employees Young and Old Can Find Common Ground and In a recent podcast entitled Say Goodbye to the Generation Gap, she explains how people have the same fundamental “wants”, regardless of the generation they represent, and that most of the misconceptions of the elusive generation gap stem from insecurities and need for power. Retiring the Generation Gap is an empirically-based research study in which Deal at the Center for Creative Leadership analyzed the workplace perspectives of over 3,200 employees of varying ages. She uses this data to show how, for instance, the top values listed by survey respondents across generations are largely similar.
Jennifer Deal: When I talk about organizational socialization, I’m talking about teaching people the things that they need to know about how work really goes. So there’s all the stuff that shows up in employee manuals, all the formal stuff. And then there’s all the informal stuff that people don’t generally tell you about. That’s what people need to be told. The earlier you can tell your direct reports all of those little things, all of those little details and norms that make work more effective and make people more effective within your organization, frankly, the more effective those direct reports will be. They need you to tell them what these things are so that they can be effective, too.
One of the funniest stories I have is that I was talking to a manager who was complaining about one of her direct reports. And she said that it was a new guy coming in his first job out of college. She walked by one day and she saw him watching TV on his computer in the middle of the work day. And she was appalled. She was horrified. And she said she went over to him and very calmly said, basically, “What do you think you are doing?” And he said, “Well, I finished my work. So I’m taking a break and watching some TV.” She took a deep breath and she said to him, “Well, we work in teams. When you finish your work, you need to go and talk to the rest of your team and find out what additional work the team has that you can do.” And the guy found this enlightening because nobody had told him that. And he said, “Okay.” And he turned off the computer and he went and found more work to do, talked to the rest of the team.
Well, she was horrified and upset by this and she said… she kept saying to me, “You know, those young people… those young people, they’re just entitled and they just don’t understand what teams are about.” Now, the funniest bit of that is that she was 26. She was three years older than he was, and they were from the same generation, so she was calling his generation “entitled,” and she was part of the same generation.
What this made really clear to me is how critical managers socializing their direct reports is. This young guy coming in, he had no idea that when he finished his work, he was supposed to go find more work to do. Think about it. It makes perfect sense. He was at college before he came to the work world. In college, when you finish your English essay, you don’t go down the hall and ask one of your friends if they need help with theirs. You finish your work, you’re done with your work, you go and do something else. But a team work environment is different. When you finish your work, you go to the team and you find out what else needs to be done. But this is a new way of working for people who haven’t worked in that kind of environment before. And clearly, nobody had actually told him that that was what was expected of him.
When he got the coaching, he was very pleased. He was happy to do it. He just didn’t know. It isn’t that he was being difficult or entitled, he just had no idea. That’s part of the reason it’s really important that managers tell their direct reports what’s expected of them much more explicitly than mangers generally think that they would need to.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd