Empathy – An Effective Strategy for Any Generation

You’ve just had another long day at the office & you’re struggling to understand why the people you manage “just don’t get it“! After-all, it’s just common sense, isn’t it?

Why does it seem so hard to motivate, inspire & rally your troops on a consistent basis around the things that need to get done?

This article was initially during my search to better understand the challenges faced by my 14 & 18 year old sons. Then I came upon the Wall Street Journals clip on “Why Gen-Y Johnny Can’t Read Nonverbal Cues“. It states that “an emphasis on social networking puts younger people at a face-to-face disadvantage“. And after recently speaking to some psychologists, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that today’s educational system is severely outdated & thus unable to adequately stimulate their! Finally, just this weekend whilst reading HBR’s series of three articles focusing on “Leadership – The Next Generation“, it all started to come together.

Now that the background laid out, let’s move onto the solutions by first defining two key parameters. Think of common sense as merely “accumulated experience” or mental predisposition based on parental or societal (educational system, religious, government, business practices, etc.) influence. Remember that fact next time you use the term when you’re trying to make a point, give instructions or win an argument.

Next up, consider that our current work-force is composed of multiple “generations“, each of them with their own predispositions & beliefs.

  • Baby Boomers; those people born during the Post-World War II demographic between 1943 and 1960
  • Generation X; those people born between 1961 and 1981
  • Generation Y or the Millennial Generation; those people born between the dates of 1982 and 1998, also referred to as the MTV Generation

The simple consideration of Work-Life balance means completely different things to each generation and in your day-to-day activities you’re dealing with all of them at once! Still wondering why your head is spinning by the end of the day?

On the other hand, Generation Z are those people born between the dates of 1999 and 2019. And whilst they may not have entered into the workforce yet, their mere presence in our lives dictates that our decisions will become conditioned as a direct influence by association.

But I promised you a solution, and here it comes! Regardless of generation, the one thing that still hasn’t changed is that as human creatures we all strive to reach self actualization. And so the solution is in  tailoring your approaches based on understanding & aligning around Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Ask & understand where your staff want to be in 5 years from today. Find out what their purpose & passions are. Now validate this information against your business practices / core ideology, and you’ll have all the answers you need about how to motivate & inspire any person or team to come together as an individual or collective unit to achieve your success!

And this is where “empathy” comes in as the most critical asset to your solution. Wikipedia states; “Empathy is an ability with many different definitions, ranging from feeling a concern for other people that creates a desire to help them, experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions, knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other“.

I actually prefer the various graphical & practical messages contained in this RSA clip entitled “The Empathetic Civilization“.

Whilst the environmental & sustainability message is highly important, if you focused on the nuances of evolutionary biology, child development & human nature you’ll walk away with the necessary insights to survive your current generation gaps & clashes.  Indeed, if we are soft-wired to experience another’s plight as if we are experiencing it ourselves, than isn’t it logical that what’s typically holding us back from successful connection & communication with any generation is actually our own internal biases, predisposition & repressions?

How are you addressing the different generations in your work environment? Please share with me any of your key learnings or current challenges.

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