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Coaching Different Generations


My father was born in 1947. Technically he is a Baby Boomer, but only missed falling into the Traditionalist generation by one year. As someone who grew up on a farm and has always wanted to move back, working in the city still feels uncomfortable, even though he has been doing it for 50 years.

 

At work, he talks about the engineering jobs he manages and sports. Most of his coworkers are men, many of whom are white and some of whom are from India. Conversations are professional and impersonal, focused on the task at hand. Only a few co-workers he has known for several decades get to hear anything about his personal life or his family.


For my father, everything is a game. How many jobs can his company win at work? How many hours can he put in at the office? How hard can he push himself to achieve goals? When there is free time, it is primarily spent doing competitive sports.


My father does not engage in many cultural activities related to music, food, or art. Free time is commonly spent watching sports. Emotions and feelings are rarely discussed with anyone, with the rare exception of his wife, and even then it is very uncomfortable.


He is starting to feel a difference in values between himself and his younger employees. He has a difficult time relating to what he sees in millennials as being too selfish, not having a strong enough work ethic, and does not understand their priorities. While most consider my father to be a workaholic, to him it is clear that he lives his life the correct way, and it is everybody else who is wrong.


As I write this, I feel both proud and sad. On the one hand, my father epitomizes being an achiever and can always be relied upon to get things done. On the other hand, I believe he misses out on cultural experiences, expressing his true self, fun, and a balanced life. At age 72, he talks about retirement but shows little signs that it will ever happen. He sees his children and grandchildren, but it is typically for short and infrequent periods when there is not a work deadline looming.


Working with many generations is just of one of the ways I have experience coaching diversity and inclusion.

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