Technically, I’m an older millennial. In many ways, one could argue that I’m the stereotypical millennial – I work a job in social media job, I’ve got a podcast, I got married via a handfasting, heck, I’ve even made my own hard apple cider from apples grown in my yard. I’m an NPR supporter, have started businesses on Kickstarter….
Yeah, I’m a stereotype in a lot of ways. But is the idea of a generational divide — splitting people into groups on the basis of their birthdate – is only one way of separating apart individuals for the intent of trying to understand differences.
Even in this podcast, we’ve used generational differences and research several times to help explain how various types of behaviors may just be understood.
But generational differences may not necessarily explain everything. As Fast Company published in 2016, quote:
When Jessica Kriegel set out to write her doctoral dissertation on the unique attributes of the millennial generation, she discovered one major problem: There weren’t any. “As I was reading all of the different books, research articles, and peer-reviewed studies on generational difference, I started to realize how much contradiction there is in the literature,” says Kriegel, who earned a PhD in educational leadership with a specialization in human resources management from Drexel University in 2013. “I realized it’s all kind of made up. There’s not a lot of hard data that supports any of these assumptions. It’s all anecdotal, case studies, research studies with 200 people that they apply to the broader population, and it’s really damaging.” The results of Kriegel’s research appears in her recently published book, Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes. In it she explores how remarkably similar the generations are, and how damaging labels can be to both employers and employees.
In other words, perhaps judging someone only on the basis of their age isn’t the best idea ever. And just like most other labels, approaching people as complex beings that are informed by – but not led by – their experiences might be a better way to go.