Talking about my Generation

May 1, 2012 - 5 Comments

I recently read an article by Deloitte and something really caught my attention: voicemail.

Apparently voicemail is antiquated.  It’s out of touch. It’s not an efficient way to communicate with people.

Did you know that? I didn’t. But according to the same article, the reason I didn’t know is because I am too old.

I’m a Generation X-er. I’ve lived through the digital revolution. And whilst I, like any good Cisco employee, love the fruits of technology – the Internet, smartphones, SMS texts, blogs, IWE – I also remember a time when telephones had cords and emails were word-processed and delivered by postmen. And apparently that makes me a whole different ball-game to Generation Y-ers and “Millenials.”

According to this article, if you were born any time after 1980, you probably don’t check your vmail for messages from your boss and colleagues. Our younger colleagues are conditioned to tune out unsolicited communication. After all, these are the children raised on terms like spam and malware.

Reading this made me feel strangely out of the loop. And made me wonder about my own perspective towards younger colleagues. At Cisco we are accustomed to the fast pace of change. As a company, we embrace it. As individuals, however, is it hard not to feel confusion, distance or plain incomprehension of younger – and older – colleagues at times?

We are living – and working – longer than ever before. According to Forbes, five generations in the workplace will soon become the norm. This means that it’s completely conceivable that you will at some point be working shoulder to shoulder with someone old or young enough to be your grandparent or grandchild.

With this in mind I had a bit of a search around the Internet to see how we view each other as different generations and found data that surprised me: apparently a whopping 68 percent of my generation and Baby Boomers view younger colleagues as work-shy. We see their ability to multi-task, as lack of focus. They see us as out of touch.

Now the fact that my generation might prefer face to face meetings, phone calls and voice messages, doesn’t mean that we are right and younger people, who’d rather get their information from blogs, IMs and text messages are wrong. We are just different.

But how different are we really?

Because, although it’s useful to be aware of generational differences and to bear them in mind, any generalisation about generation is just that: a generalisation. And although we can and do categorise each other in terms of age groups and general behaviour, it’s vital to remember that what distinguishes us as people is not our age, but our personality, skills set, and unique experience.

Let’s put this to the test: which generation do you think you most closely connect with? Try this short questionnaire. You might be surprised by the results.

Please let me know your feedback. Were your results what you thought they would be? What do you think about generational divides?

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  1. Very surprising score considering I was born before 1980…I scored 74 – Millennial. I didn’t expect that although maybe my rebel years account for most of my score.
    Great blog by the way!

  2. Great test, very insightful, my score is 39, somewhere inbetween truly multi tankers and momno takers! I love your blog!

  3. I truly belong to my generation! Baby Boomer, score: 22. BTW, Nikki, I’ve been reading your articles. I really love the issues you write about. Keep them coming!


    • Thanks Jimmy glad they resonate. Certainly seem to be driving dialogue within Cisco so hopefully they provide some content which provokes thought!

  4. I thought I was quite clued in to Gen-Y, but the quiz proved me wrong. Although my score is almost in the middle – 48, I am still in the Gen-X range (born before 1980).
    I hadn’t realized face-time is more a Gen-X thing, but I’m proud of it. And like you rightly said, being different doesn’t make one wrong.
    In fact these differences are what helps bring in new ideas, innovation, and finally better technology for eveyone.