A Letter to the Workplace

Workplace, Workforce, Generations, Generational, Labels, Labeling

Dear Workplace,

I recently joined the workforce in May after graduation, and was eager to share my ideas and, more importantly, learn from others in the industry. So far, I have not been labeled “Gen Y” to other workers, but rather seen as a hard worker, excited to excel in my position. With all three generations of employees working together in the workforce today, the labeling of every generation and their negative qualities has gotten out of hand lately… I would like to see the finger pointing stop, that way we can all establish the same goals of accomplishment in the office, and ultimately have fun. Everybody wants to feel trusted and valued in the office – if not, then why go to work at all?

All throughout my schooling years, fellow peers along with the pressures from today’s society, created a strong sense of labeling people from what brands they wear and who they hang out with. I’m sure we’ve all been through this same experience at some point in school. Thinking about it today, I was never into labeling people or purchasing important name brands on my clothes. I talked with everyone, no matter what they wore or who they hung out with. All that mattered to me was having a good positive image and creating an attitude and environment around me to foster great relationships with my peers (with no labels attached). Maybe that’s why today I don’t label generations in the workplace. I see the good that all employees produce in their company to create the best output for everyone in the end.

Recently when I was at my local grocery store, an employee and I struck up a conversation about generational labeling at work in society. He gave me a unique and simple response to the situation: “I don’t want critics, I want a medic.” I thought that medic was an unusual term to use, but generally he means a mentor or someone who will help anyone, regardless of who they are.

Simma Lieberman and Kate Berardo of Workforce Diversity Network, wrote an article called Bridging Age Gaps in the Workplace: Beyond Stereotypes to Strategies. In the article, they reflect on how the large difference in their age doesn’t have to translate to difficulty working together. They go on saying “our relationship has been significantly enriched because of our age difference, not in spite of it.” Simma and Kate point out two very important steps that will develop learning and help bridge the generational gap:

1.      Suspend your assumptions and judgments

2.      Engage in dialogue across generations

Number one is critical in a workplace.  I have found that the quickest way to achieving goals together is removing labels and stereotypes. In order to achieve this, speaking with everyone and finding interests in common goes a long way to foster the development of relationships across generations. I once heard a coworker of mine say that whenever he is interacting with someone he does not know he looks to “make the world a little bit smaller.”  What he means by that is probing to find the common ground between him and this new person.  Find that thing or things in common and use it to drive a relationship of similarities rather than differences.  Kate and Simma state that everyone should “avoid assuming that because people are a certain age, they will act a certain way…You may be surprised by some of the things you have in common.”

In today’s society, everyone hopes to find work in something they love and are passionate about.  Not all of us succeed in that, but those that do find themselves blessed.  What a wonderful thing to get up and go to work every day doing something you love!  Now, how great would it be if everyone could make an effort to take the labels away from our age differences?  It would make the workplace a place we would want to thrive in even more!  What I want people to see is my enthusiasm, drive and commitment to making my workplace better, and not my age.  If you focus on my “Gen Y” label, and assume I fall into the stereotype, you may rush to judgment and miss all the positives.

It is my wish for you, The Workplace, to thrive and to hopefully all end up doing something you love! The first step we can take towards a truly positive and enriching workplace environment is to remove the labels and accentuate the positives we ALL bring to the table.

Sincerely,

Julie Skowronek, Marketing Coordinator at Whiting Consulting

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