By being a social worker, I tune into people’s lives on a daily basis mostly trying to understand them and some of their behaviors. By doing this I take into consideration personality traits, racial, cultural and ethnical background, origins, history of trauma, class, status, gender, sexual orientation, family circumstances and other factors. This really helps my practice as I am able to empathize and understand differences in people, why they behave the way they behave and why are they interacting with themselves, others and environment in the way that they are interacting. But there has been also a factor of belonging to a certain generation that inevitably helps me in understanding of my clients, my co-workers and, in the past, my students. I have to say my family members too as I do have children who are not in the same cluster as I am and it can be a “learning experience” for me (I am trying to stay positive by calling “challenge” a “learning experience”).
There have been numerous theories about human behaviors that I studied during my schooling and later as I was practising social work, but there are some common grounds that are attached to generational characteristics that, I simply have to admit, I found true. Times have changed significantly in terms of work habits, ethics and values, work culture, cross generational exchange of knowledge, mutual respect and the ways of learning. I witnessed this the most during the times when I was working as a sessional instructor with third year social work students. It would be hard to understand every student individually; but understanding generational changes and the frame of mind helped me to organize classes in the way that is interesting and engaging for students these days. Presently, students function in “fast of everything”: fast exchange of information, fast delivery, fast mind stimulation etc. Fast, quick, simple, new, engaging, motivating, without giving them feeling you expect too much, carefully given feedback that is not taken as a criticism and expected dose of praising, was nothing I even had a right to ask for as a student. My job was to sit there and accept whatever was given to me in forms of education. God forbids to challenge professor’s opinion. That was not what students were supposed to do. So I understand that neither I am responsible or guilty for having to sit quietly in the class asking for nothing, nor the new generations are responsible for their entitlement and sometimes unrealistic expectations. These are just different times in which the society is shaped differently. I have to learn every day that if I expect my children to behave in certain ways I was expected to behave as a child, they simply would not survive. The same goes for parental styles, team work, and many other layers of functioning in society.
Through observing, working and interacting with others within my work environment and private life, I witness daily differences in the way of thinking, entitlement, expectations from others and community, the ways of communicating, dealing with health and mental health and expectations from self and others. And things made sense once I was able to understand that some of the “clashes”, misunderstandings and discrepancies come from differences in generations. Here is the table to help you learn, the first, the name of your generation and then to positioning yourself where you belong .
I am not sure if I am the only who has been trying to make sense of this. Also, I was actually surprised when I discovered that I am Millennial as I do not fit my own idea about Millennials. It is always interesting to compare how we see ourselves vs. how others see us. Maybe I should ask a Baby Boomer who interacts with me on a daily basis. I believe I will continue to explore this and continue making some conclusions about individuals who belong to different generations. While doing so, I will try to stay away from stereotypes and biases. I will continue to embrace individuality in my work and life, regardless when the person was born. We are all unique and amazing in our own way.
Here is for all Millenials. Please feel free to share about you and your generations and what are the differences who are dealing with.