Sticking Points: 4 Generations Working Together

GenerationsBack in July, my good friend Marie lent me her advance copy of Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Hadyn Shaw. Now that it’s out and available for everyone, I wanted to let you all know that you need to buy this book now!

It’s a quick read and you can easily jump around as needed. Shaw provides a simple five step model for working through the sticking points: acknowledge, appreciate, flex, leverage, and resolve. In each chapter he provides an example of putting the five steps into action.

Especially important is the “flex” step. Shaw differentiates between business necessity and generational preference again and again, highlighting how often managers think doing things one way is a necessity when actually it doesn’t really affect business. He defines necessity as anything that will make you lose your foot, customer, money, or funding. Everything else is simply preference.

Each generation also gets a chapter that describes their “ghost stories”  or the formative events and experiences of each generation that consequently influence them in the work place. The second part details the 12 sticking points he discusses:

  • communication
  • decision making
  • dress code
  • feedback
  • fun at work
  • knowledge transfer
  • loyalty
  • meetings
  • policies
  • respect
  • training
  • work ethic

Some other interesting takeaways for me were:

  • Shaw explains that these days people believe you’re not an adult until 28 (both older generations and Millennials think this)! Instead of bemoaning how lazy and unambitious Millennials are, he points out that in the pre-war childhood of the Traditionalist generation, life on the farm offered you ways to contribute meaningfully and see the fruit of your labor from very early on. That’s simply not the case in today’s environment where meaningful contribution and seeing the fruit of your labour is sometimes assumed to only come after at least five years of paying your dues post-college.
  • He notes that parents treat their Millennial kids well (Millennials and their parents are often good friends) but then gripe about their Millennial employees’ behavior. He terms this the “half-step back” problem: when you start managing, you take a half-step back in to the older generation because that’s who trained you. So you manage from an older generational mindset than how you parent.
  • His main suggestion for leaders who are running into these generational sticking points is to forget trying to manage the issue with top-down policy decisions. Instead, gather a task force with a rep from each generation to hash out the “sticking points” your organization faces. They’ll come up with a plan that will have more buy-in from everyone.

I’ve read quite a few books on generations now and while Shaw can’t and doesn’t take the time to go into all the nuances of each generation, he definitely captures them fairly. As a Millennial, I especially appreciated this since so many articles and books about Millennials in the workplace tend to only paint us negatively. I highly recommend getting this and discussing it at your workplace!