No need for media-fueled, inter-generational Cola Wars
Lately I’ve been interviewed several times about the kind of workplace we’re running over here at ThirdCoast Digest. One of thosestories, by the Associated Press, was picked up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today. The reporter, Martha Irvine, asserts that Gen-Xers (who belong to a generation half the size of those directly in front of and behind it) are feeling trapped between the Baby Boomers (who are not retiring as scheduled) and Gen Y (just entering the workplace with perceived lower wage expectations and an assumed greater understanding of technology). As a Gen-Xer myself, I can relate. Up to a point.
Up to a point. With some reports estimating that over 40% of American households have been affected by a layoff, decreased hours or total unemployment, it’s no wonder people are feeling tense, and it’s even less surprising that competition for the precious jobs that are out there could divide along generational lines. I guess it is possible that a storm could indeed be brewing, something analogous to a media-fueled Cola Wars (if RC had also been a contender). It makes for all kinds of interesting punditry, but at the ground level I don’t believe it holds much water.
In today’s AP story, I was quoted as saying “When the dust settles, they’ll [Gen Yers] be exactly as they were before and we’ll just have to sift through them and take the ones that actually get it and hope the rest find employment in fast food.” The last part, about fast food, was taken entirely out of context, as I was referring to any worker who doesn’t step up to the plate and realize that these are highly competitive times.
The staff of ThirdCoast Digest spans all three generations, and it’s a terrific mix. We fly in a loose pattern formation where the most experienced of us mentor the less so, though experience doesn’t always fall along age lines. Some of our less technophilic members have been acclimated to social media by the more tech-savvy; our less experienced writers are being mentored by those with more bylines under their belts. It’s a healthy ecosystem, unpolluted by the jealous tension espoused by Ms. Irvine’s article.
I’m sure our workplace isn’t unique. Nor is it just like all the others. Healthy workplace cultures are healthy, and unhealthy workplace cultures are… not. And in an environment where most of us with jobs in our field are over-extended and under-supplied, the best course we can all take is to look objectively at our internal collective resources and use them to our best advantage, period.
Personally, I would love the Baby Boomers to retire. I’m sure they would love to make me happy. Gen Yers need access to meaningful professional development so they can be ready to take the reins when their time comes. And Gen X is ready now. But the natural order has been upset by forces larger than our desires, and there’s no changing that fact. So while we wait, our best chance for a full recovery is to all pull the oar in the same direction. This is no time to panic, and that means sticking together.