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5 Steps to Changing Your Organization’s Culture by Dropping Generational Stereotypes

JessicaKriegelWe make generational assumptions at work without realizing it. But what if our assumptions were racially or ethnically driven? Replace the word ‘millennial’ with Hispanic:Millennials are entitled, lazy, innovative, want to save the world…”

After reading the above, clearly it’s no longer a question of why organizations need to eliminate stereotypes, but how.

Of course, there’s no comparing the societal and historical impact of racial stereotyping with that of generational stereotyping.  This example simply drives home the point that stereotypes in general are unfair.

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But how can we ditch them in the workplace — especially when we may not even realize we’re making them?

Supported by extensive academic research, author and top talent management pro Jessica Kriegel (Oracle) provides the roadmap to eliminating generational stereotyping in the workplace in her new book Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes (Wiley, 2016).

The first step, Kriegel says, is to become aware of how prevalent generational stereotyping is in your organization and the role plays in decision-making processes.  For example, do managers unfairly assume for example, that certain jobs would be better off held by millennials because they are “tech savvy digital natives,” or that to effectively manage millennials colleagues need to give them constant praise and feedback?

Bearing in mind that there is there is no clear evidence to support the messages that the stereotypes convey, you can then take the lead toward ending generational stereotypes your organization with the following 5 steps:

Don’t feed the hype

Avoid feeding the hype about generational stereotypes: it will only perpetuate them!  This means resisting the temptation to click on articles with titles like, “What Millennials REALLY want”–  or buying books and signing up for seminars on similar topics.   

Spread the word

Spark conversation about generational stereotyping in your workplace. Share stories that go against the grain of common knowledge. Speak up — casually and without confrontation — to stop generational stereotyping in its tracks when you notice it.

Create a coalition of change agents

Find influential allies to help you change your company’s climate. The more age diverse the coalition, the better. Find out how generational stereotypes are affecting your colleagues and engage those most affected to become passionate advocates. 

Review your company’s collateral – Suss out concrete areas where your organization uses generational stereotypes, such as in training, recruiting or internal documents.  Catalogue changes that need to be made.

Organize a campaign

Develop a key message about what changes are needed and why and find an audience for it with the leaders of your organization.  Aim to change specifics, like language. When executives at the top start speaking differently, there is a trickle-down effect.  Consider making training available to certain groups once momentum starts to build. 

Jessica Kriegel, Ed.D., serves as an organizational development consultant for Oracle Corporation, where she provides strategic advice about organizational development, change management and talent development.  Valedictorian of her doctoral program at Drexel University, she has served as an adjunct faculty member at Drexel’s Masters in Human Resources Development program.  Kriegel has been named one of Sacramento’s “40 under 40” by the Sacramento Business Journal. Her civic engagement includes a seat on the board of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera and the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Alumni Association. She is a regular contributor to and a frequent speaker about inter-generational issues at conferences nationwide.

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