My name is Yosha van Droffelaar and I am currently doing an internship at the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations and I am also one of the apprentices at the PLF. One of the projects I’m working on is the generation research.
Reflection Focus Groups
There was a pleasant ambiance as the participants of the first focus groups of our Generation Research slowly began to consume the breakfast we catered in the early morning silence at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations. Despite the fact that it is always difficult to make statements based on a small number of participants, that particular morning of May 18th I nevertheless noticed that the outlined generation profiles appeared to closely match that which the focus groups revealed. And although our objective is to question generalisations, a first impression of the focus group would, for example, suggest to me that generation Y corresponds well with the generational ‘stereotype’: creativity, authenticity, openness and innovation are of great importance to them. Yet, they also, seem to decidedly dislike status, contrary to expectations. I wonder though if this was not just a socially desirable answer.
Where generation X mainly left a pragmatic and realistic impression, generation Y and the babyboomers appeared to have a more idealistic mindset. Generation Y and the babyboomers mostly care about the same values: meaningfulness, creativity and innovation. This in contrast to generation X, where values such as solution mindedness, growth and development took center stage.
Notably, amongst the babyboomers values such as cooperation and connecting stood out. In the context of connection it is worth noting that all three generations indicate to greatly value meaning and significance. This provides an interesting starting point for the continuation of our research, since every generation is likely to interpret these values differently.
Tensions and Stereotypes
Although we will only further explore the possible existence of intergenerational tensions during future focus groups, I noticed that about generation Y especially negative statements were made. Generation Y would be lazy and pampered, not used to working hard, individualistic and rude.
American author and researcher Jessica Kriegel confirms that persistent stereotypes chiefly exist with regard to generation Y (Vleugels, 2016). Surprisingly, Kriegel set out to demonstrate that millennials are fundamentally distinct from other generations with her thesis. She discovered, however, that there was no consensus whatsoever, and that many conclusions were based on assumptions, not on actual differences. Kriegel goes as far as to suggest we should stop using terms as ‘millennial’ and ‘babyboomer’ altogether. According to her, these labels are tainted by negative stereotypes, and moreover legitimise age discrimination (ibid.).
Occupational psychologist and emeritus professor Human Resource Studies Rob Vinke, on the other hand, suggests that the distinction between different generation is not a problem in itself, but that the focus on negative characteristics is one all the more. Vinke asserts that organisations can only function optimally when the pros and cons of each generation are known. His advice is therefore to strive for sufficient diversity within your organisation (Vleugels, 2016). Our research adopts a similar conviction.
However, there also exists a counter-message concerning generation Y. Nadine Ridder (2017), for example, discloses, in reaction to the frequently expressed negativity, that generation Y does not think that highly of themselves at all. Luckily, we are more or less done with the ancient Dutch ‘doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’ [just act normal, that is weird enough already] mentality. Generation Y has learned that a bit of confidence helps a person get further in life, and that we prefer to reflect on ourselves so as to continue growing and developing. ‘This self-reflection and online validation gets often associated with egocentrism, since we are busy with ourselves all day. That is correct, because we were taught: a better world starts with yourself’, said De Ridder (ibid.). Additionally, she expresses that generation Y is not pampered, instead they achieve great things at a young age, because they believe in theirselves thanks to positive stimulus from their parents. Ridder concludes by saying that the discussion now is mostly about dealing with millennials in the workplace, whilst the question people should actually ask themselves is: ‘How do I, as a non-millennial, learn to survive in a millennial-world?’ ‘We millennials need our doubtful mentality in life: in an ever-changing society we have no idea what the world will look like in a few years time’ (ibid.).
Although there is no consensus on generation theory here either, there is nonetheless plenty to think about. It is important that we continually reflect on any assumptions and that we are aware of the influence of above-mentioned stereotypes.