There seem to be two groups of people in the workforce these days. Those that fear technology and see it exhaustive and a burden and a second group, who see it as a tool to make our work easier. The division is not always along generation lines-but I do often see the first group born somewhere in the boomer generation.
This is not a new concept, nor can I take credit for calling the concept out for the first time. But I will lay it out there, with a generation lens.
Just yesterday, while in a large strategic planning meeting, I was struck by the division of some seeing technology as a threat and others seeing it as an opportunity. One particular comment, that started a flurry of fear based comments, was “technology is so unsafe, we have to protect ourselves and our children from it.” While another (also a boomer) chimed in to add “technology is not only unsafe but it is EXHAUSTING, all the constant emails and text messages, I can’t keep up!” There was a collective sigh, and it was mostly from those well over the age of 55.
Meanwhile, I see the X’ers and Millennials in the group shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. Some looking around with cagey eyes like they are trapped ready for the finger pointing and ”those millennials keep texting during meetings” comments to begin. Others were ready to vehemently disagree, wanting to list off all opportunities that technology offers to make our work more effective, efficient and increase accessibility of information.
This division and dynamic is obvious in nearly all meetings, trainings, seminars I attend.
I don’t have a specific solution for either group’s conflict, but I can say that as a “bridge” generation between boomers and millennials…Generation X has a chance to make a significant impact in this argument. Boomers, some better than others, have adapted to common workplace technology developments like email, texting, internet, google etc. But it has been an adaptation for boomers. Millennials were born connected, they don’t know a life without it. Meanwhile, GenX, was in our prime developmental years, psychologically, emotionally and educationally during the rise in the use of technology for communications and work. We were also just beginning our careers during the dot.com explosion-a pivotal turning point in the evolution of technology in the workforce.
As a generation, we can argue both sides of this technology argument. The positives, the negatives. The challenges and the opportunities. What is even better however, is that we can act as the bridge between the boomers and millennials. Technology is here to stay, and will continue to evolve, avoiding it is no longer an alternative. Not using email or learning to text for work communications, not googling your next job applicant candidate, avoiding social networking or websites to promote your organization, is no longer cute. Technology doesn’t have to be scary and bad.
To my fellow X’ers, stand up and offer to help your colleagues to adapt. Bridge the gap between generations. Explain to millennials about where the fear of technology comes from so they are better able to validate boomers. At the same time, be assertive with boomers to give time and space for Xer’s and millennials to teach about the advantages of being more connected. Technology has much to offer, so let us frame the conversation to be less about fear and more about an opportunity to learn from other generations.