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(Yet) another misleading article about generational differences

by on November 13, 2015

Perhaps I should give up reading these pieces in the popular press.  But yet again I get encouraged when I read the title and think maybe this time…..

The article in question today is in the Huffington Post by Meghan Biro who is a talent management leader.  It is titled: “The Myths and Reality of the Workplace Generational Divide” and sets out to help us understand the differences between the two.  Except it doesn’t, rather it actually perpetuates more myths and does nothing to critically interrogate or evaluate the notion of generational differences at work.  Particularly worrying is the idea that the idea that “we’re seeing a shift that addresses not just a demographic, but a mindset”.  Now I know this isn’t an academic article but to me it seems rather an omission to not define or explain what is meant by a ‘mindset’.

The real myth that needs busting here is that the sort of evidence set out in the article can tell us anything about differences between groups of people – call them generations or give them another label if you like.  The issue here is that talking about ‘myths’ and ‘realities’ in this way still suggests that there are a set of realities about differences that are useful to know in the workplace.  For example the article uses the term ‘digital native’ (“Millennials are digital natives of course”) as though this is a matter of fact, almost biological, something essential to every person born in a particular year (though which years is often unclear).  It would be more useful to recognize this as a discourse and to understand the power implications of its use.  Sadly though the article claims to deal with myths, generational stereotyping is (inadvertently I hope) perpetuated.

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