Look at the picture above. You’ve probably seen many like it. When I was writing in the corporate world, this might be the exact picture that I wanted in a document facing the customer or even those we wanted to recruit to work with us.
How could you not love that photo? An equal number of men and women. They’re interacting with one another. Multi-ethnic, although not fully, when you really look at it. And while that might not be a glaring problem, there is another.
This photo most likely does not represent your workplace.
As I write this article, thousands of young 20-somethings are finishing college and are excited to begin their new jobs. They’re coming from a place that looks pretty much like the photo. And they’re expecting to work at a place that looks pretty much like the photo.
I was talking with a friend that I mentor who finished his bachelor’s and masters last year at Vanderbilt University. He had spent six years learning his profession with people that were as diverse as the photo but were basically all the same as him.
Something that he said relates to what’s wrong with the photo above. “I’m the youngest guy on my Everyone else is at least 20 years older than men. Many of them have kids around my age. I simply can’t relate to them; at all.
I remember feeling the same way as a new nurse. I was paired up with Lois, who constantly reminded me that, “I was a nurse before you were born.” Most co-workers are not as spiteful as Lois was, but it’s quite difficult to relate to someone the same age as your parents. (Actually, Lois was almost old enough to be my grandmother!)
The fact of life is that in most first full-time jobs that we land, we will be the youngest person on the team. Not only are we adjusting to work-life that requires us to be to work on time, looking appropriate, and awake. We can be stumped at how to talk with co-workers that are significantly older than us.
They haven’t seen the same movies we have. (I say “we” when I’m actually not one of you!) They definitely do not listen to the same music as we do. And they don’t tend to go to the hipster bar or bistro we enjoy. In fact, most of them just want to go home after work because they need to help their spouse with the kids and housework.
It’s a dilemma for which college didn’t prepare us. (Okay, there are several things that college didn’t prepare us for.)
With all the discomfort of adjusting to living on your own, probably not even in the same city as your parents, who needs to try to relate to a bunch of old geezers? Why not just mumble, “Okay, boomer” under your breath and retreat to your space at work and home?
Why not? Because these people are a goldmine. They’ve been there and done that more times than they can count. They are a wealth of information, not only about the job but about living life.
So set your preconceived idea (that you didn’t even know that you had) about being on a happy team of people all your age and get on with your personal growth at work and home. Include older co-workers in your life, and surprisingly, many of them will include you.
Life will become more vibrant with them than life without them.
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If this article was stimulating, you might enjoy this 15-minute TEDx video of Leah George, Ph.D., who talks about five generations all working together in this decade.