Why We Must Challenge Generational Stereotypes

Prior to 1970, California labor laws prevented women from working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Why? There was a faulty assumption on the part of lawmakers that the “weaker sex” needed protection from the rigors of overtime work. 

An assumption is a belief based on little or no evidence. Assumptions lead to stereotypes. This stereotype about women was so generally accepted, it took years of feminist consciousness-raising to overcome.

Though of lesser social impact, perhaps, the same thinking is today falsely categorizing a different group of workers. This time, false assumptions are stereotyping generations, most egregiously, the Millennial generation.

Why you should ditch generational stereotypes

Diversity in the workplace has been proven time and again to be a good thing, and countless publications these days devote digital and real ink to how a new generation of workers, the Millennials, are shaking things up at the office—for better or for worse. But assuming that a particular generation will bring certain strengths and weaknesses to the work environment is falling into a dangerous trap, says Jessica Kriegel, whose book Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes was published earlier this year.

Wichita Business Journal features Unfairly Labeled

In her new book Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes, organizational developer Jessica Kriegelargues that the generational labels we toss around are loaded with implicit stereotypes, and these stereotypes are divisive and unfair.

While this applies to all generations, it’s most pervasive for the 80 million 

Read Jessica's interview with Knowledge@Wharton

‘Y’ Generational Stereotypes Are Bad for Business

Generation Y, aka the millennials, now make up the largest cohort in the workforce, and the people hiring them — and marketing to them — have plenty of preconceived notions about them. But no generation is a monolithic block, and trying to fit all of them into the same pigeonhole does everyone an expensive and often demoralizing disservice, whether it is “cynical” Gen Xers or “tech-averse” members of the Silent Generation.

Jessica Kriegel works at Oracle as an organization and talent development consultant, and her new book dissecting this issue is Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes. She recently appeared on the Knowledge@Wharton Show on Sirius XM channel 111 to talk about why it’s so important for businesses and managers to avoid stereotypes. 

Read John Helmer's take on hearing Jessica speak

As a proud Gen Xer who is – by definition – independent, resilient and adaptable, it pains me to say this, but I have been duped.  And you know what?  So have you.

At the MBA CSEA Regional Forum in San Francisco last Friday Dr. Jessica Kriegel shredded to pieces much of the research that has been done on Millennials and made me question all of the “truths” I have come to accept about Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and every generation before and since.  Incidentally, she did so just before I was to moderate a panel discussion about recruiting and retaining Millennials, so I had to rely heavily on the “adaptable” attribute I had [incorrectly] assigned to my generation.

Jessica's latest article featured in "The CEO Magazine"

Generational labelling is meaningless and counter-productive in the workplace. Not only does such labelling create unfair biases and lead to inappropriate reactions, but in fact, there is no clear evidence to support the messages that the stereotypes convey.

Yet CEOs, managers and supervisors consistently use these stereotypes to make decisions, presuming to understand the collective tastes, ambitions, values and work habits of millions of people born in the same 20-year time span.  The result is miscommunication among team members and lower productivity.

Listen to Jessica on the Tommy Schnurmacher Show discussing Unfairly Labeled

GUEST: Author and top talent management pro Jessica Kriegel talks about the problem with terms like “boomer” and “millennial” in her new book “Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes”.