Is it really one or the other?
An article today by Steven Walling entitled, “Forget Gen Y: Gen X is Making Real Change” got me thinking, why are Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers at war in the workplace?
Walling’s article is nothing more than an attempt to bully and patronize Gen Y-ers into thinking that their Gen X bosses are more valuable. False.
Walling cites a new Forrester survey that suggests that Gen X (those aged 30-43) are leading the way in their company to adopt social media technology and are the fastest-growing demographic among social media users. What he leaves out is that Gen Y (those aged 10-29) was the fastest-growing demographic–in fact, the only demographic–back 5 years ago. Now that nearly all of Gen Y (96% according to some reports) is on social media, we’ve plateaud.
I joined Facebook in March of 2005. My Mom joined a couple of years later, followed by everyone else in the world. Including my 85-year old grandmother. But not the other way around, as Walling would suggest: “A favorite argument … is that the youngest demographic is more adept with technology. The idea of Millennials at the vanguard of innovation … is a myth.”
Walling neglects the notion that it was Gen Y-ers who influenced their Gen X bosses, friends, and family members to check out social media. Indeed, many of the Gen X and above crowd may find it impossible to reach Gen Y-ers though any other means besides social media–because to Gen Y, email is dead.
Not shockingly, Walling hails Gen X as the people who actually create change within the company to adopt social media technology (therefore you should “forget Gen Y”). But let’s face it, without hearing about these technologies by Gen Y-ers–many of which were created by Gen Y-ers (like Facebook, whose founder Mark Zuckermen, was born in 1984)–there would be nothing to make into a reality. And nothing to praise Gen X for.
As Walling says, it’s all about the clout. Gen X is older and more experienced, and are therefore more likely to be managers. Gen Y is largely still in the internship/entry-level stage of their career and won’t have that “clout”. Therefore, they take their ideas to their boss, who takes it to his or her boss, etc. etc. etc.
I’ve lived this reality. Let me paint you a picture:
Me: “I discovered a great social media tool.”
Gen X boss: “I’m skeptical. Show me the ROI.”
Me: Writes a report detailing usage, application, and ROI.
Gen X boss: “Looks great. Let me take this to Baby Boomer CEO.”
Baby Boomer CEO: “Great, Gen X boss. Let’s get this rolling.”
I had the idea and knowledge. My Gen X boss had the authority and ear of the CEO. Together, we made it a reality.
The only thing that Walling and I agree on is this: “Even if Gen Y was significantly better at using social software, it wouldn’t matter at this point.” And it doesn’t. What matters is utilizing the ideas and creativity of Gen Y-ers and the strategical, decision-making “clout” that Gen X possesses. It’s not a competition. It’s collaboration.