Thu | Oct 29, 2020

Trevor E.S. Smith | Widespread friction among generational groups

Published:Monday | October 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM




The situation calls for a dose of good sense with emotions taking a back seat.

Is it wise to treat an entire generation as a homogenous group?

Millennials come from diverse backgrounds and culture. Different education and socialisation. They come with different mindsets and aspirations.

Some common views are, "They have an entitlement mentality." Or "They don't appreciate the struggle that we went through to get here."


What about those who are all too familiar with hunger. Many have experienced genuine hardship and the understand what it is like to grind out an existence.




Another pervasive view of millennials is that they want to rise quickly up the ladder. They are too impatient with respect to their career advancement.

Frankly, that should be viewed as a positive characteristic in an individual. We want our children to be ambitious and to make progress. Being stuck in the same role without prospects for advancement is one reason for the low level of engagement in the workforce.

People are bored with doing the same things and being stuck in the same place.

And here is a thought:

There is a tendency for successive generations to be better educated than their predecessors. Also, the education and training that the younger generations get should be more closely aligned to the skills that are required going forward.

In many instances, they are a better choice to lead and manage projects that involve emerging technologies, for example.

Why would I not aspire for a position for which I am well equipped? Would I not be doing a disservice to myself and the organisation?

In situations in which seniority is the basis on which promotions are granted, it is not surprising that well-equipped talent will hop from job to better job. In a system based on merit, it is the smart thing to do.




I have experienced at first hand the bewilderment of executives at the lack of conformity with what would normally be viewed as minimal dress code standards. Millennials and Gen Z have lost it.

Is it OK for a tertiary graduate to turn up for a corporate job interview with green hair?

This is an issue that needs dialogue and clarity as to the way forward.

Are employers overreacting in a quest to preserve the much-loved status quo? Is the colour of one's hair more important that what is going on in the head below it?

Is the younger generation blind or naive? What do they see when they go into a corporate environment?

What is the role of the educational institutions from which they graduate? Should they play a more active role in preparing graduates for the world of work?




History is not always right. The way things have been done and norms that are held dear are not all worthy of being protected. Also, situations evolve, and change is constant. Adapting to change is essential for survival and making progress.

There needs to be more dispassionate, earnest dialogue in recognition of the fact that five generations are currently sharing space in the workforce.

- Traditionalists born before 1946.

- Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

- Generation X born between 1965 and 1976.

- Generation Y, or millennials born between 1977 and 1997.

- Generation Z born after 1997.

Gen X sweat, Millennials fret, while Gen Z fete. There is no bridge in sight just yet.




Request a no-cost consultation on managing cross-generational teams in your organisation.

Learn more about our DISCerning Model of Communication & Leadership. Request a free copy of our publication, DISCerning Communication - Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Relations, Leadership and Coaching, at Learn more about the turn-key coach-mentor certification programme here:

Complete your enrolment for the certified behavioural coach programme:

- Trevor E.S. Smith and the Success with People Academy team prepare and certify leadership professionals and coach/mentors and develop engaged, high-performing teams. Hire smart with their recruitment solutions. Now enrolling coaches in the ICF/SHRM-accredited Certified Behavioural Coach programme. Email: