Age-Based Stereotypes:A Major Cause of Inter-Generational Tensionby Craig Perrin                                          ...
• 	 No change in “youth narcissism” in a 25-year longitu-     Another researcher randomly assigned older adults to     din...
• 	 Ask others about their interests,    abilities, and experience.• 	 Allow for a range of work styles.4. Mix it up.• 	 P...
About AchieveGlobal         In the 21st century, the level of human skills will deter-         mine organization success. ...
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Age-Based Stereotypes: A Major Cause of Inter-Generational Tension - Quick Read

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Organizational success depends on contributions from people of all ages. Employees who apply the key practices in this research are able to see one another as they really are - not as stereotypes, and help support a motivating, collaborative, and productive environment.

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Age-Based Stereotypes: A Major Cause of Inter-Generational Tension - Quick Read

  1. 1. Age-Based Stereotypes:A Major Cause of Inter-Generational Tensionby Craig Perrin A Business Issue Quick ReadAge diversity is a central theme in today’s The vast weight of genuine science under-complex, evolving workplace. And with four scores fundamental similarities across agegenerations working side by side, tensions groups. Rightly understood and leveraged,and lost productivity may be inevitable. these similarities can become the basis for reduced tensions, collaborative effort, and About the Author bottom-line results. As AchieveGlobal’s Director ofThe Popular View Solution Development, CraigSome authors, pop-theorists, corporatetrainers, and even university researchers The Actual Science Perrin is a thought leader whohave gained a following by claiming that works cross-functionally and A recent review of scientific research foundthese tensions result from profound differ- with clients to guide creation of only four valid generational differences:ences related to events and trends in the a range of responses to marketearly years of each generation. 1. Work is less central for younger people. needs. Since 1986 he has playedBased largely on their own life experiences, 2. Older people have a stronger work ethic. a central role in developing thesingle-case examples, and well-known age company’s flagship programs in 3. Younger people value leisure more.stereotypes, these theorists create thumb- leadership, sales, and customernail descriptions of the generations: 4. Younger people self-report greater work- service. Craig holds a B.A. and place individuality. M.A. from San Francisco State• Traditionalists (1925—45) are conservative, rule-oriented, self-sacrificing patriots. No other generational differences in University. workplace values have emerged in any study,• Baby-Boomers (1946—64) are idealistic, despite the fervent claims of pop-culture driven, materialistic micro-managers. writers.• Gen Xers (1963—80) are cynical, self- A large group of university researchers has sufficient, rule-bending skeptics. launched a campaign to refute the popular• Generation Ys (1981—99) are fun-loving, picture of the generations, finding: narcissistic, job-hopping techno-addicts. • Flawed research methods that leaveYet are these caricatures accurate? Or does broad judgments open to skepticismour tendency to generalize paint a distorted • No generational differences in job valuespicture of entire generations, as it once did or gender beliefsof genders and ethnic groups? Developing the 21st century workforce TM
  2. 2. • No change in “youth narcissism” in a 25-year longitu- Another researcher randomly assigned older adults to dinal study experimental conditions that activated either positive or negative age stereotypes. In the positive condition, older • Myths with a kernel of truth that have become gross adults exhibited improved memory performance, self- falsehoods confidence, and views of aging. In the negative condition, Put simply, the stereotypes perpetuated in pop-culture older adults exhibited a decline in the same variables. media, misguided corporate training, and lunchroom Still other researchers have found that: conversations have very little basis in fact.1 • Unconscious age-performance perceptions generate But how widespread are age stereotypes, and what affect tensions between age groups. do they have on motivation, collaboration, and produc- tivity? • Age stereotypes endorsed by leaders determine whether and how policies are applied. Stereotypes in the C-Suite • Workers who “feel older” have a stronger desire to To explore these questions, we surveyed 350 employees retire early and are more prone to cross-generational worldwide at all levels, confirming that employees of all competition. ages, generations, levels, and regions do indeed endorse • The perception that older people cannot learn brings significant age stereotypes. exclusion from retraining, career plateaus, and early Further, we isolated an unsettling trend in the data: The exits. higher the level of the employee, the greater the influ- • Age-blind policies promote more positive attitudes ence of age stereotypes. Our overall survey findings toward work. suggested concrete ways to promote cross-generational collaboration, including: Collaborating Across Generations • Train all employees, especially senior leaders, to rec- Based on our research and more than 40 years of work ognize and avoid age stereotyping. with organizations worldwide, we have identified five best practices for reducing cross-generational tensions: • Encourage cross-generational dialogue to reduce ten- sions and foster collaboration. 1. Challenge stereotypes. • Treat everyone as an individual. The Damage of Age Stereotyping • Assess how age stereotypes may color your views. The simple truth is that popular stereotypes limit the contributions of young and old, damaging relationships • Encourage others to reject age stereotypes. and productivity. 2. Find common ground. This phenomenon has a name: ageism, or a system of ste- • Ask respectful questions. reotypes, policies, norms, and behaviors that discriminate against, restrict, and dehumanize people because of age. • Listen with an open mind. A mountain of research confirms the pernicious effects • Connect on the human level. of ageism. Researchers found, for example, that where 3. Find the talents in everyone. age-based biases prevail, workers internalize their own stereotypes and then conform to them, creating a self- • Assume that everyone brings value. fulfilling prophecy.See the full AchieveGlobal research report, “Age-BasedStereotypes: A Silent Killer of Collaboration and Pro-ductivity.”
  3. 3. • Ask others about their interests, abilities, and experience.• Allow for a range of work styles.4. Mix it up.• Partner across generations.• Find collaborative ways to share your perspective.• Respectfully ask for and offer ideas and help.5. Expect a lot.• Challenge yourself to learn, grow, and perform.• Hold yourself and others to high stan- dards.• Observe how expectations drive ef- fort and results.Organizational success depends oncontributions from people of all ages.Employees who apply these practices tosee one another as they really are, not asstereotypes, can help support a moti-vating, collaborative, and productiveworkplace.
  4. 4. About AchieveGlobal In the 21st century, the level of human skills will deter- mine organization success. AchieveGlobal provides ex- ceptional development in interpersonal business skills, giving companies the workforce they need for business results. Located in over 40 countries, we offer multi- language, learning-based solutions—globally, regionally, and locally. We understand the competition you face. Your suc- cess depends on people who have the skills to handle the challenges beyond the reach of technology. We’re experts in developing these skills, and it’s these skills that turn your strategies into business success in the 21st century. These are things technology can’t do. Think. Learn. Solve problems. Listen. Motivate. Explain. People with these skills have a bright future in the 21st century. AchieveGlobal prepares you for that world. World Headquarters 8875 Hidden River Parkway, Suite 400 Developing the 21st Tampa, Florida 33637 USA century workforceTM Toll Free: 800.456.9390 www.achieveglobal.com© 2011 AchieveGlobal, Inc. No. M01366 v. 1.0 (01/2011)

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