Why is it that date of birth creates so much organizational angst?

Why is it that date of birth creates so much organizational angst? “I don’t get them.” “They act so weird.” “Don’t they know anything?” “What’s wrong with them, anyway?”

The generation gap is back in vogue and it’s magnified with four generations now trying to live and work side by side. From what I see and hear almost daily, it’s not a pretty sight.

Part of the problem is the way most people approach differences. They compare ideas, attitudes and behaviors to their own frame of reference and judge anything outside their personal experience as weird, irrelevant, or wrong. Not much chance of building bridges or positive working relationships with that mindset!

A healthier approach is one of curiosity, adopting an attitude of genuine interest in how people got to be the way they are–what experiences they’ve had that shape their beliefs and values, what lessons they’ve learned and how they learned them, what preferences they’ve developed and why. This makes for a much more interesting exchange of information and usually opens up new vistas of learning for everyone.

Why is this so hard to do when it sounds so simple? We live in a competitive culture. Pressure to perform is high. Compassion is not rewarded; results are. Differences mean conflict, resistance, and a drag on productivity. Shall we count all the reasons why fear and self-protection overtake us?

Shall we then count all the waste that we produce when we refuse to open up to difference, learn from it and grow?

The days of formulaic answers are long gone. The world has changed dramatically in 20, 30, 40 years and so have we. The good news is that we are remarkably adaptive and resilient. A little fear now and then is not going to permanently damage anyone. It’s when we pull that fear close and use it as a shield to deflect differences that we get into trouble.

Make time to learn about the people around you. A lot of things that feel scary initially become perfectly logical once you understand how people grew up. If you meet enough “weird” people and hear their very human stories, pretty soon you’ll find that nothing really fazes you anymore. Then you can really get down to work, confidently leveraging the grand variety of your colleagues’ talent and experience toward success.

Categories: Business

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.