Recognise This! – Generalisations and stereotypes lead only to misunderstanding and missed opportunities – especially in the workplace.

Gen Y wants constant recognition and approval of its work. Boomers are heavy-handed managers and technological inept. As the smallest generation sandwiched between the giants of Gen Y and Boomers, Gen X just wants somebody to remember they are there and contributing.

All a bunch of hooey. Especially on a global scale.

I’ve written repeatedly about the error of trying to lump employee needs, desires and wants into categories based on their age and supposed generation. Tammy Erickson has now taken this to a new level with her post on Generations around the Globe in Harvard Business Review.

Tammy’s point is that generalisations about a generation are completely senseless on a global scale. Her research found that what was happening around us in our countries during our pre-teen and teen years is a far more powerful influencer of our motivators in the workplace.

For example, Gen Xers in the US, Europe and Brasil grew up during an economic downturn and so now “tend not to rely on institutions for long-term financial security.” Yet Gen Xers in China and India were experiencing a burst of economic opportunity during those formative years and now “are willing to compete” in order to gain a place in the growing middle class.

My point – you can’t assume all employees want the same things. Generation, life stage, culture, global location, past experiences, and future dreams are all powerful factors in employee expectations of the employment contract. Stereotypes of managerial style and recognition expectations are equally egregious.

Each employee is an individual who comes to work every day for a different reason, with a different expectation of the day, and different desires for the outcome. Respect that. Better yet, try to understand that on an individual level. Then you have a chance of truly motivating individuals.