There is a vast amount of chatter on the internet about generational gaps and specifically about millennials and the workplace. Studies show a revealing pattern in each generation on how they are motivated. These are generalizations and not scientific statements or even meant to be a comprehensive summarization. These are observations I make from my experience in ministry and the workplace. I also started at Boomers, simply because of the current workforce and to expose a first level of generational differences. Each generation has a set of core values and motivators that are not necessarily wrong or right, but they exist.
Baby Boomers (1946-1964) went to work for long hours, did what they were told, respected authority, played politics well and stayed in their respective careers for a long time. This generation saw the first major rise in divorce, infidelity and the single parent home. They raised kids by passive example versus a hands-on approach (again, generalization), showing what it meant to work hard, ignore struggles and keep busy.
Generation X (1965-1976) was a product of the Baby Boomers (0f course). Gen Xers are much more educated than previous generations; they value their use of time over any other workplace ethic, and responsible for the shrinking of the population since having 1.4 kids per family belongs to them. They saw the pains of the Boomers who worked hard to get them a better life; they lacked quality time with parents. The correction was to make the workplace more efficient, create systems for faster and better response and motivated by time and performance. A Boomer sees performance as working (money and quantity), a Gen Xer sees performance in terms of success (money, time and quality). They raised kids with the approach of “everyone is a winner” and handed out trophies for just showing up. They spent time with their kids, fighting hard to increase education standards and made their kids feel special.
The Millenial generation or Gen Y (1977-1995) was a product of both Boomers and Gen X. Generations are changing faster now due to technological advancement. They grew up with much of life being taken care of for them, and they grew up faster because of TV, the internet and mobile devices. Parents no longer were the primary influence in the life of a child but the mix of teachers, online sources and TV took over the authority. Creativity is hard to assess, but millennials thrive in this arena. Since they got a trophy for just showing up, they have a sense of entitlement built into their lifestyles. This entitlement is not their fault as much as it is a product of overcorrections by Gen Xers. They are motivated by purpose and impact more than time, money, or quantity of performance. They now make up the largest portion of the workforce in the United Sates.
Boomers and Gen Xers get frustrated with Millenials because they often misunderstand them. No given generation is lost in some way simply because they are different than the previous. Yet workplace discussions, seminar lobbies, and forums online are filled with nostalgia of how it was done, and now it is all going downhill.
Gen Z or Centennials (1996 and forward) are product of Gen X and Millennials and are inundated with media and trends. They find value in causes, have little patience for rules that have no meaning, live life based on emotional investment. There is still ongoing research on how they will impact the workplace and family, but there is a push for organic community.
I am a millennial by definition, but I can relate to Gen Xers as well. A millennial does not do something just because someone said it is to be done. They do something because it means something, that the systems, tasks and processes are not only tested but constantly tested and improved. Gen Xers want to know their calendar is being valued and not just having meetings because that is the way it is done. They want to know that both Boomers and Millennials respect them as a person. Millennials want to know that you connect with their emotional quotient and that they are setup to make an impact.
I watched this great video at the bottom of my post, and it challenged me as a leader and supervisor. We can complain about other generations and what is lacking, or we can become better leaders by taking the time to understand the intersections that are involved in generational leadership.
I read a book some years ago called Free Yourself Be Yourself by Alan D. Wright when I first came on staff at Christian Life Center. At first, the title made me a little squeamish because I am not into touchy feely books or content, or that is what I tell myself. The freedom I experienced after reading that book were quite amazing and applying the principles to my life became a pursuit over the last two years. Shame is crippling and, like me, many of us would never think that we filter our entire lives around shame.
Most of the time, the word shame is saved for altar calls, or part of some incredible testimony of deliverance from addictions, freedom from sexual abuse, etc. However, most people suffer from some grip that shame has on them.
Shame Is Contagious
Much like a virus, shame spreads easily and is passed down within the family unit, workplace, education system and even the church. The only way to stop the spread is the gospel because shame is a primary product of separation from God. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid together instead of running to God.
Shame Is Motivational
Let’s face it; we can react to things in one of two ways: in freedom or shame. For instance, your child spills his plate while standing in line at a church potluck and it lands on someone in front of him. As a parent, you have one of two filters to respond through. You could shame your child and take a public discipline approach making sure the adult the child spilled on feels like the punishment fit the crime and show how embarrassed you are. Or, you could politely apologize or hint to your child to apologize and then work together to clean it up and comfort the child that is was an accident and offer kind assistance or payment for the outfit cleaning of the spill victim. Shame motivates behavior, response, and emotions.
Shame Damages Relationships
In my spill illustration, if the child is shamed publicly, the effect is damaging. I am not saying that children do not need correction or discipline, they need it and it is biblical, in a loving and graceful manner that has restoration in mind. This is not a post about discipline, but about the shame filter. When you create an atmosphere in a relationship that is motivated by shame, both parties fall victim to the shame filter. I remember as a child that if my father, grandfather, uncle approached me in anger, I would flinch or cower. My parents or family never abused me physically or even emotionally, but I knew that anger meant there was only one last place to go to. I deserved a butt whooping as a kid, but the point is we do not have to verbally teach our children to learn shame responses, it is built into us because of our sin nature.
Shame Deflects or Absorbs
You need to read the book I mentioned to get a full picture of the shame we often live with. For those that may seem confident in life: shame causes us to live in self-preservation mode, and we defend our position to a fault, alienating relationships, forcing our authority where it was not needed. For those who lack confidence: shame causes you to retreat, to accept incoming abuse as deserved and to settle for less. Get two people who react in shame, and you have a full-blown battle of deflection. If a wife is verbally shaming her husband all the time and the husband just takes it because that’s the way it is, it is unhealthy, and both have a shame reaction. The wife is the active ingredient, and the husband is the catalyst, coming together to form a creation of bondage. Shame is often associated with the one taking the abuse or garbage, but the one giving it is living in shame just as much. I even wrote that illustration as an example of the shame that readers may even react with. You may have thought, “Why did he choose the wife as the aggressive one.” and I would answer in freedom, “because it’s my illustration.”
Shame Is Not Leadership
I am still learning this point in my life. I remember growing up, and coaches, teachers, pastors and leaders would often use public humiliation and shame to lead people. Words like, “You embarrass me” or “If it were me, I would have done it differently,” “Are you stupid” and the list goes on. When we lead from a position of shame, we are coming from a position of weakness that only elevates you once someone else is down. When we lead from freedom, we come from a position of strength that pulls people up with us. I find that leaders who are overprotective of their churches, ministries, departments, etc. are often dealing with shame in some way. Jesus never told his disciples to make disciples and then bring them back to the church in Jerusalem since that is the only church approved by God. No, Jesus gave them a systematic approach to spreading all over the world. Shame tells us that if someone speaks better or has more people under them, that we should talk bad about them, find faults and warn everyone how much better you are. Eventually, shame takes us from protection to isolation, to destruction. Let’s lead from freedom, the freedom that Christ gives us.
I will write about the freedom side of the battle tomorrow, but I would challenge anyone who has not read the book, to do so, you will benefit greatly. Also, take some alone time and reflect on how shame has influenced your choices, your life, etc. There is hope, and that hope is Jesus.
Get the Book Here – https://www.amazon.com/Free-Yourself-Be-Power-Escape/dp/1601422768
My son comes into the house one day with wet boots all over the floor, jacket half open, no hat and his hands are filthy. This is what I see, that and red, all red. I have issues with cleanliness that I need to get over I am sure. My son is crazy excited about a cool rock he found in the great outdoors, with no concern for his health mind you. This is the tone that is in my head, and the tone that is in my head orchestrates my heart on the issue like a puppet on strings. I wish I had the “awesome dad” reaction that would cause Hollywood to write a script about it. I did not; instead, I lost it. I elevated to a yelling tone about what he did by bringing his boots wet through the house, how his jacket should be closed in such weather and how filthy he was.
His face was a window to his heart at that moment. He looked crushed and ready to bolt away and I let him. See this story gets no better for my reputation. I continue to work on my project and had very little conviction about reaction initially, because I was too busy and the noise of life spoke louder than the Holy Spirit at that moment. About a half hour later, I went to hug my son as I normally do throughout the day and realized he had some apprehension. Instantly, it hit me like a ton of bricks, I crushed his spirit.
Immediately, the Holy Spirit gave me such an illustration that it broke me. He showed my how I am often like my son and I come in broken, messed up, just a tad crooked and off course, but I brought my best at that moment and he was pleased with me. I immediately sat my son down and asked him to forgive me and my son was quick to forgive and we had a great conversation about cool rocks. The thing is, most of the time we know better. I understand tone can dictate the course of a relationship immediately and over time. Here is what Paul had to say about moments like this:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:15-20
I will write about parenting and discipline some other time, but I really felt the need to focus on leadership in the home and how much tone is a stage for that leadership. Fact is tone is a stage for leadership in any setting, not just the home.
Tone is a showcase of your heart’s current condition. If we are honest we all lose it sometimes, but what is it that flips the switch for you? I know for me there are some key warning signs for my poor tone and here are some of them:
- Poor Devotional Time
I often find myself apologizing and repenting when I skimp out on what is important to me, Jesus time. I quickly read the Bible plan I have setup and get moving with the day instead of taking to time to pray, worship, read and then write it all out in my journal. This will cause me to revert to my flesh in times where I could have been much more sensetive to others and the Holy Spirit. The fact is I cannot be Christ-like without the Holy Spirit and none of us should try.
- Lack of Organization
I get overwhelmed when things are not in order, and perhaps I can be a bit OCD about it. I know how to be organized and even find myself being quite good at it, so those moments where things are not in order, I break a little. My OCD aside, our lives require a level of organization that allows us to focus on interuptions and other things with little stress. You may only need to know when to eat and sleep and life is great. That is fine, but find your level of organization necessary to clear your head for a healthy heart.
I have plans, ideas, and dreams and then my son walks on them with muddy, wet boots. That is excessive, and my son never did that, but when we are fighting self-preservation, that is the filter we see things through. Self-Preservation tells us that we are the center of the universe and all things must revolve around us, and we will do what it takes to keep us comfortable.
There are so many other reasons, but these three are my top conditions for unhealthy tone in my leadership. What about you? What are some things that you have to set in order or focus on to maintain healthy leadership tone?
I am from what is labeled “Generation X” and cusp with the current “Millennial”, as generation experts would have it. In recent years I have had the opportunity to lead and manage volunteers, employees, and students of all personality types and generations, and I have come to some conclusions, as shortsighted as those may be. I grew up in a household where I was taught hard work and persistence will pay off. At the same time, I grew up in an education system that taught me what I was worth from the start, as if my dreams or desires dictate my salary or what I deserve. I think that is where the parents who raised our generation did not foresee the possible snowball effect in their parenting.
Parents Create A Foundation
My parents were great and believed in me despite my MANY faults and shortcomings and my dad was a big proponent of letting his kids know they could do anything they wanted to do. My mom and dad fought to make something out of nothing. My dad was a first generation immigrant from Guatemala and came here to make a life for himself when he was 18. He went to school off and on, got a factory worker job in his early twenties and still works there to this day. He stayed there some 40 years and his loyalty has stuck with me more than he will ever know. He worked from an hourly job that promised no future, and he proved himself and is now plant manager and oversees a large amount of the production of patented polymers and chemicals. Not only that, my dad worked hard and completed his bachelors in his late 50’s, showing a great work ethic and diligence.
My mom never graduated high school, got married to my dad at 17 and had me the same year. She raised me and my sister at home for years. She worked hard at everything she committed to. She worked for a Christian School when I was in 3rd grade and my sister and I began attending there. My mom assisted in the small children arena, she worked the lunch program and she worked hard (and my Dad) to get us in that school and to keep us there. I do not remember one day that my mom ever complained about the school, her job, her work or any co-worker or superior. She studied hard and got her GED while I was young and kept us in our books so we would not be drop outs in the future. She always had a smile on her face when she served! She battled breast cancer from when I was 15 years old and she fought so hard to never make her sickness the center stage of our home. She was a champion of Christian character and her faith and willingness to seek God’s face despite bad reports and multiple remissions going south.
I remember when I resigned a position in Southern California in 2001 and I knew God told me to do it, but I had nothing to fall back on. My wife and I did it in faith and we felt alone in that decision. My mom told me she was proud of me and that God will provide, my parents paid for us to come to Pennsylvania and we stayed with them some months and I fought God so much. I interviewed for some 25-30 jobs, nothing. I had some of the strangest and best opportunities in ministry and nothing came about. My mom was getting what I thought was just another cycle of treatments, but it would be her final battle. I got to drive my mother over an hour each way to treatments for some months and our conversations were so meaningful. She taught me more in 2.5 months, than I could learn in a few years at a seminary. She taught me Christ, not using Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic… she was my City On a Hill. I remember, we got back from chemo one day and about 2 hours later, my mom is hand scrubbing the aluminum siding outside the house. My wife and I helped her and asked her to stop, but she would not.
My dad laid down his life and had a 1.5 hour commute so he could give my mom their first house in her 40’s. My dad showed me what it was like to be married, to lead his home and love his wife and children. They both taught me that my value was not based on my bank account, my real estate investments, or my credit report. My mom passed away soon after they bought their first home and I was able to preside over her funeral and see hands raised for salvation, which was her requirement for her service. I loved my mom so much and miss her to this day, she died way too early at 42 years old. She was a champion, period. My dad, is a champion, period.
They encouraged me often through times of my greatest failures and downfalls. I stole from them, I disrespected them, I broke their hearts at times and yet there they were, unconditionally, to love me and raise me. So this brings me to my crossroads of development when it comes to leadership. I often battle what I would call entitlement, but my parents example helps curb that most of the time, I hope.
I have had the opportunity to observe a generation slightly younger than me in recents years and I realize I need to lead them differently. The millennials are a generation of entitlement and specialized focus. I grew up knowing I had to have an understanding of anything and everything to make it, to adopt a utility player mentality just in case. I felt the need to always go the extra mile because that extra mile may be the moment of opportunity and victory. The millennials choose to focus on specific areas of occupation or hobby and less generalizations. To lead this generation, it requires a different approach to leadership. I will write more in the coming days about how I see leadership in today’s generation, but wanted to provoke thought… How will we lead a generation that I believe could be lost to ENTITLEMENT. What are your thoughts? What do you see?