Tech, generations, and connectedness

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot

This is part of a series of regular columns by generational expert and internationally known consultant, coach, writer, and speaker Phyllis Weiss Haserot on intergenerational relations and navigating the challenges of the multi-generational workplace for better productivity, retention, succession planning, and business development results.

The technology use gap among the generations is closing rapidly. There may be no better example that hits home than Michael Winerup's "Generation B" (for Boomer) column in The New York Times (January 17, 2010), "On Vacation and Looking for Wi-Fi." We all are touched, most of us are trapped by the psychological effect of being accessible 24/7 and the desire to keep on top of the deluge of messages and data coming in unstoppable torrents.

Winerup points out that just a few years ago the middle-aged members of his three-generation, geographically extended family vacationing together left their work and tech gadgets at home. Three years ago, a few made a visit to an Internet café on their vacation, just for the novelty of it. This year some of them stood in a long line in a resort lobby to pay for 25 hours of Internet service, brought laptops, and checked e-mail daily. This way they reduce the e-mail build-up awaiting them the first day back at work. I surely relate to that post-vacation return anxiety even as I resist checking e-mail every day when out of the U.S.

"We expect ourselves to be available," said Winerup. That's the Boomers' mindset. Technology is making us work harder. Gen X and Y have been continuously connected for years, but many of them don't want to be always available for work.

Winerup says we all are expected to use all the Internet tools for research and client relations. No more depending on secretaries and assistants.

Generational Definitions
Here are some quick definitions. Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were growing up. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:

Traditionalists born 1925-1942
Baby Boomers born 1943-1962
Generation X born 1963-1978
Generation Y/Millennials born 1979-1998 (under age 30 today)
 

The hit film "Up in the Air" made the point that critical human interactions, like layoffs, still require in-person contact. (Excellent work by George Clooney and his co-stars. A great story made even more captivating by the recession.) All the electronic connectedness not only can be a poor substitute for in-person higher touch contact, but it also leaves little time for the high touch. Now the connectedness has even invaded vacation time away with family and friends.

Is it positive or negative that the generations have something else in common?...I guess it depends....

Please share your thoughts.

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2010. All rights reserved.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over 20 years ago, A special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners (www.nextgeneration-nextdestination.com). Phyllis is the author of “The Rainmaking Machine" and “The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists” (both West 2009). pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com. URL: www.pdcounsel.com.
 

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