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Help! My Wife Is In The Wrong Bucket!

Our guest blog today is courtesy of John Morrison, Chief Scientist at Kronos...

“Maybe I should get one of those new phones,” my wife said to me the other day, looking down at her well-worn clamshell model purchased in the middle of the last decade.  There is no QWERTY keyboard, much less a touch screen, to be seen.  Yes, my wife has a dumb phone.  Or, more specifically, she doesn't have a smart phone.

It struck me that according to popular theory on generational differences, she should be on her second or third smart phone by now. Much is made today over the expected work habits, lifestyles, etc., based on membership in one or another generation group.  Baby Boomers began the process of abandoning western values.  Generation X was the alienated, disenfranchised generation .  Members of Generation Y are supposedly hard workers, but intent on seeing instant results from doing so.

Changes in parenting styles and societal factors, etc., have led to generational differences, but it's important not to fall into the trap of over reliance on these generational buckets when dealing with individuals.  Most of us don't like to think of ourselves as overly reliant on stereotypes, but we are when we draw conclusions about an individual based on when he or she was born.  At times they lead us to form negative expectations about members of one bucket or another that may or may not be warranted.  She's probably reluctant to use a new smart phone because she's a generation ___.  We're going to have to work harder to keep him engaged in his work because he's part of generation ___.

As it turns out, much of our personalities and abilities are inherited according to research in behavior genetics. This means you are actually MORE likely to exhibit a trait if your parents do as well.  And genetically influenced characteristics take many generations to change.  Yes, my wife missed the Great Depression, JFK's assassination, and the Moon landings (IF they really happened).  Generational differences aside, my wife's standing on the personality characteristics Openness to Experience and Extroversion will tell us more about how receptive my wife is to smart phones than knowing her age (she's not curious about new technology at all, but coming around because she is very, very sociable).  And this is true in the working world, too - leveraging objective work-related assessments of candidate and employee skills and preferences will pay much greater dividends than assumptions made based on generational bucket membership.

I've got to go now.  My daughter's grandparents are calling her on Skype.

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