A word about stereotypes
Posted On September 9, 2014
In a recent discussion about generational differences in the workforce an employee was skeptical of the stereotypes being applied to his generation. “I’m a (generation),” he said, “and I’ve never thought like that, and I don’t feel like my peers do either.”
I’m purposely not sharing his generation because, it has happened for years and with every generation. Though, right now, the Millennials are most likely to be singing “but not me” as they are the current focus of the most intense scrutiny. This person, or group of people, exists in every single large workshop. The vocal anomaly who refuses to be put in a box. And he’s not wrong.
Yet the rest of the heads in the room are nodding in recognition of all his peers that fulfill the stereotype. Is it cognitive dissonance? Emperor’s new clothes? No. He’s simply not like most of his generation. Maybe it’s a parenting influence, maybe he is a “cusper” (born on the cusp of two generations—the birth year groupings are neither official nor scientific), or maybe he wasn’t born in a western society. These, along with birth order, are additional influences that may influence how “like” their generation they actually are.
Norms are averages, and of course they don’t apply to all. But researchers have seen that generational norms are fairly consistent and telling, which is why studying them continues to inspire conversation.