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Resentment in the Workplace – Generational Perspectives

Welcome.  This is the first of a multi-part segment on resentment in the workplace.  The series will be dealing with various issues from the perspectives of the different generations currently within the workforce today.

This is an unprecedented time in business history as there are four different generations currently active within the workforce.  The current mix comprises the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, and now the first members of Generation Z have just begun working as well.

This convergence of generations brings with it an incredibly broad range of perspectives and opportunities, but also several problems when the different thought processes of these various groups begin to come into contact/conflict.  This is particularly true when it comes to the topic of resentment in the workplace.

In this series, we will be examining some of the different traits and perspectives of each generation in the workforce today.  As well as some techniques/perspectives that professionals can utilize to move past the barriers and friction between these opposing groups to create a more dynamic & positive work environment.

Part I

The Baby Boomers – A Living Legacy (1946-1964)

Strong, unyielding, determined to build the country – these are just some of the positive impacts that the baby boomer generation had on the USA, and by extension, the world.

However, while there are many great legacies from the baby boomer generation, there are some darker aspects that are prevalent as well .  These problematic perspectives are now coming into serious conflict with the attitudes of the younger generations in the workplace, which means professionals from this era must begin to reflect honestly on themselves in order to arrive at a resolution.

Let’s take a look at some of those issues now:

Sacrificing the Self

One of the problems that stands out significantly is that the majority of the individuals from the boomer generation defined their existence by their jobs in most cases, forgoing just about everything else in life – family, friends, personal pursuits, etc.

This stemmed from the belief in the illusion that they had to sacrifice their personal joy in life and work in jobs at corporate entities (that they did not necessarily always like).  Additionally, they had to work a high number of hours weekly in order to make a living and prove to the world (and themselves) that they were successful.  This belief was supplemented in many cases by the fact that they had also bought into the illusion that the company would provide a pension and they would be taken care of by said company in retirement (This of course has now ended very badly for many retirees).

This tunnel vision focus on work also created a secondary problem, which rose when it came time for many of the earlier born boomers to retire from their careers.  This is the fact that many of those individuals had an identity crisis and lost their entire sense of self when they had to leave the jobs that they had held for some many years.

All of this should serve as a wakeup call to all the members of this generation still in the workforce today, which brings us to the next section.

Conflicting Attitudes in the Workforce Today

As stated previously, boomers defined themselves by their jobs in many cases.  However, the Millennials and Generation Z, (and some members of Generation X) refuse to do that, seeing it for the trap that it is.  As a result, individuals from the younger generations are demanding more fulfilling work and greater flexibility.  Thus this has become one of the most significant points of contention between Boomers, Generation X, and in particular the Millennials.

Well Boomers, it is time for some tough love, and the hard truth is that your belief in working excessively while sacrificing the other aspects of your lives was a terrible mistake that your generation made.  As the old saying goes, no one ever went to their grave believing that they should have spent more time at work.  As a result of this realization, many professionals from the boomer generation are angry at themselves over this mistake, and are simply projecting it onto others as a form of denial and retribution.

So boomers, you must realize that engaging in this type of behavior is nothing more than an exercise in ego.  You should not be angry with the later generations simply because they recognized the problem, want something better, and have a perspective regarding work that quite frankly is better than the one your generation possessed in this case.

That said, many boomers (particularly those born near the end of the generational cycle) will still be in the workforce for at least 10-15 more years.  So the question becomes – How can boomers make the most of their remaining time in the workforce, and leave the workforce a better place than they found it?

Well, here are several points that can be used to improve the current situation:

 Perspective for Boomers

 1. Life does not end just because you reach a certain age, (or number of years on a job).

Just because  you have been working in your chosen field(s) for a long time doesn’t mean that you are “past it”, so don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.  Yes, it’s true – You can still show the new kids on the block how it’s done, and leave them in awe of your prowess at the same time.

How? Well one of the hallmarks of the younger generations is that they believe in the illusion that they know much more than their predecessors because they feel that their advanced technology gives them an edge.  However, Boomers know that there are many things which can only be learned through first-hand experience, and relying too much on technology becomes a dangerous crutch, particularly when the technology fails.

Boomers also know that having a guide is always beneficial, but members of younger generations may not have experienced this lesson yet.  So instead of keeping your knowledge and experience to yourself, share it where possible.  However, you will find that there will be times where the advice is welcomed, and other times where the people you are trying to assist will let their egos run amok and ignore you completely.

So, ultimately if someone doesn’t want to heed your good advice, and/or thinks they know more – then simply let them crash and burn.  You can take heart in remembering that people learn more from failure than they do from success, so if they choose to learn that way, then don’t stand in the way of the lesson (as long as the consequences won’t impact you negatively).

Afterward, when that person is shaking their head, wondering what happened, boomers should use the opportunity to share the benefits of their wisdom again.  However this time around you will probably find that the audience is much more willing to listen, particularly if the person involved now needs help with damage control after crashing & burning.

2. Find your Joy

Look for the things outside of a job/career that you enjoy. Try something that you’ve always wanted to do, like learning a musical instrument, volunteering as a mentor, helping in the community, etc. Activities of this nature are much more fulfilling that slaving away extra hours at a job while life passes by.

3.  Stop Spending so much Time at Work

This is something that almost every boomer could learn from the younger generations.  Your job and the company you work for does NOT care about you.  They never did.  They would just as soon replace you with someone that they could pay less, and as soon as that opportunity comes along, they will do it in a heartbeat.

4. Embrace Technology Sensibly

No matter what, technology will continue to march on, so it is best to approach it with a positive attitude.  However, there is an important caveat here – Just because something is new, doesn’t mean that it’s better.  Nowhere is this more true than when dealing with both existing and emerging technology.

So, keep your mind open to learning and using new technology, and make sure you aren’t held back by fear.  Ask questions, and remember that you are not alone as many other individuals are learning it for the first time as well.  Then once you’ve learned the details, if there is a legitimate issue, you can speak with confidence, which will gain you more respect from your peers, and boost your esteem.

5. Stay Fresh

Even though you have been around and have a wealth of experience, that does not mean that all your perspectives are the best.  Things grow and evolve over time, and people are no exception.  So stay open to new thoughts and experiences, and that positive approach will continue to expand your horizons in wonderful ways.

Stay tuned for Part II on Generation X!

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Career Skills – Keeping Your Mind Open

An article I wrote about keeping an open mind in the workplace has been published by multiple outlets in the past few months.

Subsequently there has been a good amount of feedback regarding this topic.  However, due to the limitations on the number of words that many outlets place on authors, the content that was published had to be a bit limited.

So, based upon the questions and feedback that I received, here is an enhanced version of the topic.  As always, please feel free to leave comments and/or questions.

Let’s face facts, many individuals in the workplace (particularly in leadership positions) have created the illusion for themselves that their ideas alone are the best and that’s final, no matter what.

That brings us to what is one of the most important, yet difficult to achieve aspects of Business & Leadership in general – maintaining an open mind.  Unfortunately, the reality is that this concept is utterly disregarded by many individuals throughout the corporate world today.

The reasons for this can be somewhat varied, depending on the individual and the aspects of their environment.  However, there are some shared characteristics as well.  So now let’s take a look at a few of the major points that contribute to this issue, and what can be done about it.

  • Who’s in Charge?

Management positions can be a double edged sword for many professionals.  Walking the line between being a true leader and just forcing things on people is very difficult, and many individuals are not prepared for the task.

Much of the trouble is due to people letting their egos run amok and control their thought processes unchecked by sensibility, compassion, or understanding.  This is evidenced by the fact that virtually every professional in business today (regardless of industry) has at least one story of an encounter with a peer, manager, or executive that behaved this way, and many professionals face this situation on a daily basis.  You could present excellent perspective and provide evidence to back it up, but in the minds of people like this, it doesn’t matter.  They will do what they want, period, because they are either the boss or the project lead, and to their line of thinking that makes them automatically correct.

Breaking the cycle of this kind of behavior can be extremely difficult for individuals entrenched within it.  This is due to the fact that it requires a high level of self-awareness and the ability to view one’s self objectively.  If you suddenly have a moment of realization and find yourself caught in this kind of cycle, then you must make a conscious effort to step outside yourself and see things for what they really are.  Once that is done, you can begin to take corrective action and get back on the proper path.

  • The Shadow of Fear

Another major reason many professionals have difficulty keeping an open mind is quite simply – fear.

This fear can grab hold of your psyche if you possess the misguided feelings that if you do not present the best ideas and solutions at all times; you will appear weak or incompetent to your peers, upper management, and clients.

However, the reverse is actually true.  By being a tyrant and closing your mind to other possibilities, it will make you appear, rigid, unyielding, and unapproachable.  If this happens, people will begin to avoid you at all costs, or keep you at arms-length in every encounter to minimize contact.  Not a very productive environment at all, and not good for your reputation either.

So, to avoid this dangerous negativity, you must make a serious effort to ensure that these fears do not overwhelm you and take control of your thought processes.  You can do this by bearing in mind that leaders inspire their teams to find the best solutions.  Allow yourself to be a calm, understanding source of inspiration and support, without forcing things on people.

Lastly, once it is time for actions to be implemented, make sure to give your team members the space needed to actually do the job.  Let them know that you are ready to assist, but don’t constantly hover over their shoulders.  This freedom will foster further creativity, helping the team’s endeavors to reach great heights.

  • The Quest for Glory

Fame, recognition, bonuses, higher salaries…..all of these things are associated with achievement in the workplace, so of course these things are among the top priorities on every professional’s list.

There is no denying that you and every other person in the workforce wants to have those shining moments in the career where greatness is achieved.  However, during the pursuit of those moments, many individuals put their blinders on, get caught up in the chase, and only see what their contributions can bring to table, pushing everyone else aside so that they themselves can take center stage, regardless of the repercussions.

This is nothing more than another example of the person’s ego running rampant.  It has simply taken a different path.  Don’t let yourself become someone like that by falling into the trap of tunnel vision.  Just let the blinders fall by the wayside where they belong.

  •  Power Corrupts?  Not so Fast….

As the old adage goes – it’s very easy for power to go right to your head.  (Which can particularly occur when an individual receives a promotion).

Subsequently, in the corporate world’s current climate of the “me, me, only me” mentality, facing the fact that they do not have all the best answers or solutions is very disconcerting for many people as it shatters the illusion of self-perfection that has been built up within their own minds.  So in order to avoid facing reality, they use the power and authority of their position to live in absolute denial of the truth, causing everyone around them to suffer for their delusions.

This is another example of the ego attempting to assert control from a different angle. However, you must remember that this can happen only if you allow it to happen.  So, if you have your ego in check, this trap can be avoided.

To achieve this, you must make a conscious choice to ensure that you really listen and contemplate other viable possibilities when they are presented.  Again, a true leader must continuously bear in mind that just because they are in a management position does not mean that they always have the best ideas or solutions.

Finally, learning early on that swallowing your pride and being open to new perspectives will allow you to significantly broaden the horizons of your career by letting new ideas take you in new directions.

Things to Remember

  • As a business professional, you should strive to be open to meaningful suggestions and options from both your peers and leadership.
  • Keep your ego in check by acknowledging and accepting the fact that no one person can know it all, no matter what level their position is within the hierarchy.
  • When good, viable options are presented by others, be sincerely grateful for the input and tell those individual(s) who presented the options that they are appreciated.  That action will demonstrate to the other members of the organization that their perspectives matter, which has a positive effect for the overall environment.
  • People who have open minds in leadership positions tend to obtain the best projects and assignments, and subsequently become the leader that everyone wants to work for.  So it stands to reason that if you ultimately want access to the best choices, it is prudent to maintain an open perspective.

Bearing all of these things in mind will keep you on the path of true professionalism, while simultaneously enhancing your career significantly.  Finally, it will also help you to avoid the self-destruction of egocentric behavior, which has been the downfall of many potentially great professionals over the years.

The Salary Negotiation – Playing the Numbers Game to Win

So you are interviewing for a great new job, and now comes the question –

“What are your salary requirements”?

At this point in the process many people suddenly become intimidated, feel a raise in their blood pressure, and questions like the following start racing through their brains at the speed of light:

  • How much should I ask for?
  • What if my number is too high?
  • How can I be sure that I don’t give too low a figure?

If left to run amok, this line of thinking can induce severe emotional reactions, up to and including panic (sometimes in even the most focused individuals).  This in turn can cause the affected person to utter poorly worded statements, or create an uncomfortable pause in the discussion, which can ultimately sink the prospect of obtaining the job itself.

However, there is no need to feel nervous or over-emotional during this phase of the interview. There are some simple steps and methods which can help keep you calm and maintain your focus during the process.

1.  Do your homework.

It is an absolute must that you research how much the job pays before you go in and interview for it.  Look at how much the average salary is both nationally and for the region/area of the country in which you want to work.

While this may seem like common sense, it is astonishing the number of people who only have a general idea of what they should be getting paid for their jobs, rather than arming themselves with the knowledge they need to succeed.

2.  Be Generally Specific

At first glance this statement does sound a bit odd as it is a paradox.  However, it is a very apt approach for this situation, and the proper execution of this strategy can be very effective.

To accomplish this, you will need to give a number within the range you researched previously, but without actually giving a range.  This is to combat the fact that most companies are going to try to hire you for the lowest wage they think they can get you to accept (more on that in the next section).

For example, after doing your homework let’s say you determine that the job you are seeking should pay between an average range of $48,000 to $53,000, with some individuals even reaching $55,000-56,000 per year at the top end.  By having this knowledge at your disposal, you can proceed with confidence.

So, once you are asked the question by the interviewer – “What are your salary requirements?” you can respond to them confidently with a statement similar to the following – “I am seeking about $53,000 per year”.

The word about is key in the statement above.  While it does not seem to be that important, that word can have a significant psychological effect as it will subconsciously generate the idea of flexibility within the interviewer’s mind.  This occurs while still keeping the requested wage on the higher end of the spectrum, tipping things toward your advantage.

3. The Fine Art of Haggling

As mentioned previously, most companies will ultimately try to hire you for the lowest wage that they think you will accept, while of course not telling you that there is actually room for variation in the majority of cases.

When you state a wage requirement, typically many companies will come back with an offer that is on average $3,000 – $5,000 less than the number you gave.

So continuing with the previous example, by giving them the number of $53,000, you could reasonably expect that they will possibly drop the number down to about $49,000.

However, this does not mean that you have to accept this offer immediately.  Pay attention to the words used by the person offering the figure.  In particular, look for any words or phrases that are open-ended, or that indicate the flexibility you previously planted in their minds.

For example, if you are asked – “Would you accept an offer of $49,000?”  This is obviously an open ended statement trying to determine how low they can go with their offer.

You could respond with – “No, but I could accept $51,000”.

By making this counterpoint, it demonstrates that you are flexible, but not a pushover for the first thing that comes along, and this type of response keeps you closer to achieving your goals.  In many cases, the person making the initial offer will find terms like this acceptable and agree to them.

Finally, you must also be prepared to accept the possibility that there is no room to negotiate.  If this occurs, then you will need to make a decision, can you live with making the lower salary, or should you decline and continue your job search?

This is something that every individual must decide for themselves, so make sure that this scenario is considered and have your answer prepared in advance just in case.

4.  Ace the Interview

Through all of this, keep in mind that you still have to succeed in the interview itself to even have a shot at getting to the salary negotiation stage.  If you don’t, it doesn’t matter what salary number you have in mind, as everything else then becomes a moot point.

So keep your focus, and be sincerely honest when answering the interviewer’s questions as doing that will go a long way toward leaving a good, lasting impression on the interviewer.

Final Thoughts

Remember that the salary negotiation is only part of the interviewing process.  Do not let it distract you from the main task at hand, which is getting the job in the first place.

Also bear in mind at all times is that you must get as much of the salary as possible right from the start.  This is due to the fact that for most professionals raises have become just like dragons or unicorns – A mythical thing that people talk about but never see in real life.

Lastly, it is important to mention that there is a small chance that you will one of the lucky few who actually get the job they want at the wage they request.  If this happens to you, then big congratulations are in order as you must have impressed the interviewer immensely, well done.

The NBC Debacle – Lessons for Business

Recently, disgraced NBS news anchor Brian Williams briefly emerged from the shadows to attend a fundraiser.  This was the first time he had been seen in several weeks.  Of course this approach is nothing more than damage control.  The tactic being to disappear and hide while waiting for other news to come into the spotlight, which of course shifts the focus of the public.

Just to recap, a large amount of media buzz regarding the purposeful reporting of incorrect information by Mr. Williams had been prevalent within the media prior to his exile.  Proving that even in this age of advanced technology and instant communication , there are still people who continue to try to pull the wool over the eyes of others.  But with so many people watching and scrutinizing their actions, plus the potential for things to go viral in the blink of an eye, it begs the question – Why do some people continue to behave in that manner?

Well, a significant portion of the answer is that in many cases like this, the perpetrator’s  ego has gotten way out of control.  Their belief in the illusion that they are on such a high pedestal and virtually untouchable clouds their judgment.  Another contributing factor stems from the delusional belief that they will not be caught – “Don’t worry, no one will ever catch on.  The rules don’t apply to you, you’re the exception!” – says their ego.  Yet they always do get caught eventually, and the repercussions extend far beyond the scope of the individual in question, and often end up hurting many other people as a result.

Ultimately, this situation is a tremendous learning opportunity for all business professionals.

Now let’s take a look at how all this relates to the corporate world, and the lessons that be gleaned from it:

  1. Damaged Credibility = Damaged Trust

It is a given that Mr. Williams significantly damaged his credibility, and that in turn equals damaged trust.  Of course, once trust is damaged between people, in most cases it will never be fully regained, it has become impaired permanently.

For all professionals (but particularly for CEOs, Executives, and Managers) the first lesson that needs to be realized here is that a person’s credibility is paramount not only to their individual success, but also to the success of their respective companies/corporations as well.

Quite simply, if the workforce of the company doesn’t have trust and belief in the words and actions of their Leadership, then everything else becomes moot.

2. The Downward Spiral

The next lesson here is that all individuals in business (with particular focus on those in leadership roles) must maintain the highest ethical standards, or they will end up looking like a joke and drag their respective companies/corporations down with them.  This drag then creates a negative domino effect that resonates across the spectrum.

Here are just a couple of examples of those negative effects and how they relate to various business areas:

  • Hiring

If the company is reflected poorly to the outside world due to the actions and/or the poor decisions of its CEO, Executives, or Management, then hiring will be negatively impacted.

How?  Well, due to their now negative reputation, that company will no longer be able to attract the best & brightest talent that they need to prosper and continue to be competitive.  It is a well-known fact that people will not go to work for a company they don’t believe in, unless there is absolutely no other choice.

Additionally, always remember that in this age of technology with its frequent, multiple surveys describing the best and worst places to work, there is no place to hide for companies or their leaders who continue to try to deceive the populace and potential future employees.   As can be expected, the ultimate effect is that a company’s poor reputation becomes tantamount to sending those highly qualified individuals right into the arms of the affected company’s competitors.

  • Revenue Loss

Damaged credibility can and does negatively affect revenue.  How so?  Well, it is not only Mr. Williams personally that has been tarnished, it is in fact all of NBC.  It is a well-known fact that

Credibility takes a long time to build, but it can be destroyed in an instant.  So, there is a high level of probability that many viewers will now just simply write off NBC and find other news outlets for their attention. This in turn hurts everyone working at NBC by eroding the viewer base, which can greatly affect the sales of advertising time and subsequently advertising revenue.

Then, once revenue begins to fall, that is always followed by job cuts.  It must always be remembered that any company with damaged credibility can face a very similar situation.

3. Second Chances?

Don’t bet on it.

Obviously, Mr. Williams’ poor choices have tainted not only his reputation and damaged his legacy permanently, but it has also detrimentally affected NBC as a whole.  It is extremely unlikely that it could occur, but if by some miracle Mr. Williams did receive a second chance in some form, many people will never fully trust anything he says ever again.  They will always be questioning, watching, waiting for the other shoe to drop at any moment.

The Aftermath

Unfortunately, this will follow Mr. Williams for the rest of whatever remains of his career.  Just as it does for anyone who got themselves into a similar situation.  A sad ending to what could have been a phenomenal legacy.

Finally, in the wake of these events, hopefully other news outlets have reviewed their own reporting procedures and information, otherwise they could suffer from the same scandalous situation if they’re not careful.

Maintaining an Open Mind

Let’s face facts, many individuals in corporate leadership positions have created the illusion for themselves that their ideas alone are the best, and their word on every subject within their sphere of influence is final, no matter what.

Even though evidence to the contrary can be staring them right in the face, and/or other people could be shouting the truth at them all day long, but in their minds it doesn’t matter.  They will do what they want, no matter what, because they are the boss, and to their line of thinking that makes them automatically correct.   Every professional in business today (regardless of industry) has at least one story of an encounter with a peer, Manager, or Executive that behaved this way, and many professionals unfortunately face this situation on a daily basis.

That brings us to what is one of the most important, yet difficult to achieve, aspects of Management and Leadership in general – keeping an open mind.  Unfortunately, this concept is utterly disregarded by many individuals in leadership positions throughout the corporate world today.

The reasons for this disregard can be somewhat varied, so let’s take a look at a few of the major points that feed this issue:

1. The Quest for Glory

Every person in the workforce wants to have shining moments in their career where they achieved greatness.  However, during the pursuit, many individuals put their blinders on, get caught up in the chase, and only see what their contributions can bring to table, pushing everyone else aside so that they themselves can take center stage.

In the corporate world’s current climate of the “me, me, only me” mentality, facing the fact that they do not have all the best answers or solutions is very disconcerting for the person involved as it shatters the illusion of self-perfection that they have built up within their own mind.  So in order to avoid facing that reality, they live in absolute denial of the truth, causing everyone around them to suffer for their delusions.

2. Power Corrupts

As the old adage goes – it’s very easy for the power of leadership go to a person’s head – however, that can only occur if it is allowed to happen.  So, if a professional has their ego in check, this trap can be avoided.

How?  Well, in order to achieve this, a conscious choice must be made by the individual in question to ensure that they really listen and contemplate other possibilities when they are presented.  A true leader must continuously bear in mind that just because they are in a Management position does not mean that they always have the best ideas or solutions.   Learning early on that swallowing the pride and being open to new perspectives allows a professional to broaden not only their own horizons, but that of their respective companies as well.

Those that master & maintain this perspective will ultimately become very formidable individuals, not only in business, but in life as well.

3. The Fear of Inadequacy

Another major reason many individuals in leadership positions have difficulty keeping an open mind is quite simply – fear.  This fear manifests itself in the person’s mind in that the Manager/Leader feels that if they do not present the best ideas and solutions at all times; it will make them appear weak or incompetent to their departments, peers and upper Management.

However, the reverse is actually true.  By being a tyrant and closing their mind to other possibilities, it makes the leader in question appear, rigid, unyielding, and unapproachable.  That perspective then has a domino effect which spreads like wildfire amongst other members of the organization.  People will begin to avoid the Manager in question at all costs, and/or keep themselves at arms-length in every encounter to minimize contact.  Not a very productive scenario at all.

Every person in business should work to ensure that this fear does not control their thought processes.

Maintaining Perspective

In summary, all business professionals should strive to be open to suggestions from their peers, team members, and subordinates.  Keep the ego in check by facing the fact that no one person can know it all, no matter what level their position is within the hierarchy.

When good, viable options are presented by others, be sincerely grateful for the input and tell those individual(s) who presented the options that they are appreciated.  That action will demonstrate to the other members of the organization that their perspectives matter, which has an extremely positive effective overall.

This in turn will also go a long way toward expanding a person’s own opportunities for growth and advancement.  Not to mention that it will also place a professional on the path of true leadership, and help avoid the self-destruction of egocentric behavior.