My musings today come from a couple of weeks of research concerning the generation gap – the arrival of Gen Y into the workplace has caused a frenzy of theories, studies and articles about ‘how different’ these young people are; and how we older generations will have to adapt our antediluvian ideas to their new and disturbing ways.

Alas, it was ever thus!

I have read books and articles; dissected researched studies and engaged in discussion groups on this subject – and I find myself cast as the heretic! You see, I can find nothing really different about the Gen Y group to all the other ‘younger generations’ I have known thrown into the work force.

They were all young, idealistic and without responsibility but with money. They all, to some degree or other, fought against the ideals and shibboleths of their parents, while maintaining a sneaking regard for their grandparents.

So let’s take a deep breath and meander through memory lane, shall we? If you are a Veteran or an early Baby Boomer, this could be uncomfortable – but be brave!

Remember this – around the 1960’s? It was ‘Make Peace not War’ everything was “groovy man” and, according to the older generation who had just fought that war, we were all ‘going to hell in a hand basket’.

Children were disrespectful of their elders; they had no sense of responsibility and they had a disturbing habit of dropping out of work and disappearing; only to turn up later somewhere in Nepal after hitch hiking there.

Others dropped out even further and took to living close to nature, reappearing only to frighten the natives in either Woodstock or Nimbin.

Then what about the 1970-1980’s – the ‘back to the earth’ movement terrified our parents no end – never mind that those same parents were the ones ending up in Kathmandu in a slightly hazy state!

These young children of the earth had decided that the world wasn’t worth it, and took to inhabiting derelict farm buildings in an effort to live close to the earth and off it. Self-Sufficiency was the cry and John Seymour was the guru. We grumbled that they were too idealistic, they had no sense of responsibility – alas, while they were meditated in the meadows who was feeding the chickens for heaven’s sake.

And then we come to Gen Y – tell me; in what way do they exhibit any differing ideals to those we lived through?

What is our complaint about their attitude – that they ‘buck the system?’; that they lack responsibility?; that they show their contempt for all we feel we have built and support? – and now tell me – what’s changed??

At last some research has surfaced which indicates that I am not such a heretic after all – Jennifer J. Deal has released a book “Retiring the Generation Gap : How Employees Young and Old Can Find Common Ground.” (Jossey-Bass)

After seven years of research she has come to the same conclusion – we are all. underneath the teenage angst, very much alike. We all want to work for someone we trust; none of us like too much change not of our making; and we all like to be approved and respected.

What is happening with Generation Y is the same thing that happened to us – we grew up! And once we married and/or had children and became personally responsible for the happiness and security of other people we changed.

We changed our attitude, we changed our opinions and we changed our practices – and when our children grew into teenagers we were appalled at their lack of respect, their lack of discipline, their lack of responsibility and the way they had no thought for their future. “What is the world coming to” we cried, conveniently forgetting our youth.

Alas it was ever thus – and it will be again.

But just in case you thought it was all a 20th century thing – listen in :

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

This reads like a modern complaint about the youth of today (and the workforce of tomorrow) – but it was attributed to Socrates by Plato (428-347 BC) – so in reality nothing has ever changed – except the technology!

So, let’s welcome Generation Z to the workforce and sit back and listen to the complaints with a smile on our faces – we know that the difference is, that there is no difference.

Michele @ Trischel
who once ended up in Kashmir and didn’t remember getting there!

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