How I Became the Cross-Generational Voice
by Phyllis Weiss Haserot
People who know me over the 25+ years I have been consulting and coaching as a professional services marketing/business development pioneer may be wondering: “How and why did she get to be considered a workplace inter-generational relations expert? “
Through my journey from urban planner to the “Cross-Generational Voice,” I can’t claim to have had some work or family epiphany or triggering incident with my son.
The truth of my evolution is that I realized over 20 years ago as I developed “Next Generation” programs for firms that though I am a Baby Boomer, as a “sandwich generation” survivor I had a lot of sympathy, even empathy, for the young professionals’ work and life objectives. In some organizations, we have gone beyond 24/7. I have always felt strongly about being able to pursue outside interests and still have a challenging career. The friction building among the generations back during the dot-com boom and bust was a pre-cursor to what we will be facing for years to come – now even more so given demographic facts. And what I saw was serious.
I felt we need to restructure the workplace and adjust the business model so it worked better for professionals and executives, staff and their clients of all generations if we wanted to improve productivity, retention and business development results. This became the passion point of my organizational effectiveness work.
I saw patterns and red flags others weren’t talking about. I did interviews, I gave seminars and workshops. I started a monthly e-Alert on inter-generational relations in the workplace in 2004 and a series of bi-monthly forums and kept moving forward.
As I worked with the young professionals, I explored deeper into the Boomer psyche and then Gen X and Y/Millennials. Boomers, after all, are often still in charge. They are facing pressures and uncertainties that explain some of the pushback, even when they have common ground with Gen X and Y, for example, on the desire for flexibility. That led me to develop new ideas on succession and transitioning planning and to identify what I call “the Baby Boomer Flexibility Paradoxes.”
There are no good guys or bad guys, generationally speaking. At different times on different issues I may sympathize with or disfavor the behaviors of any of the generations. Mainly it is my mission to help the generations get along better for their common goals in serving clients and their organization’s purpose. In my work the keys to results are facilitated dialogues and cross-generational conversation – the only way issues get sorted out in the workplace and real change happens.
I have been a trailblazer for all of my working life and career choices:
- as a non-architect or non-engineer urban planner (and woman in the field);
- in marketing/business development for professional firms and creation of next generation programs;
- in consulting and coaching on intergenerational challenges, succession and transitioning planning for professional services firms and knowledge workers.
I advocate that solutions can be a unifier among generations because fundamentally they want the same things – perhaps in different measure at different times. The vision of how to achieve shared goals may differ, and that is the challenge we work toward addressing with workshops, forums and focus groups, and facilitated dialogues and the concept and implementation of Cross-Generational Conversation Day.