Sometimes Gen X & Y chatter about how to respect older generations in the workplace reads like passive-aggressive instructions for retiring racehorses to pasture.
Baby Boomers can be depicted as:
Resistant to change. Terrified of electronic equipment. Mystified by branding.
But don’t worry, Boomers can be guided to the light when a young person gently explains the power of social entrepreneurship.
Here’s four things young nonprofit professionals can learn from older coworkers…
I use “Excel” as shorthand for “any software that collects numbers and does things with them”.
As a nonprofit professional you need know basic things like how to build a chart that explains more than one variable. Worse than that, you’ll need to understand why the heck it’s important to be able to pull stats into Excel, or a database, and how you should interpret the report.
Do you know your organization’s average donation amount? No? #Fail (that’s Twitter for unacceptable). Do you think it’s not your job to know because you’re in communications or program delivery?
Data-driven decisions are awesome. I mean… Facts! Come on. You need them.
Tomorrow when you are spending 10 minutes showing your coworker how to work Twitter, let her give you a 4-hour primer in the org’s constituent relationship management system in exchange. Lucky you!
Articles about next generation leadership love to focus on the fun side of being in charge. Networking. Compassion. Soft Skills. Social. Engagement. Collaboration. Work-life-balance. Doing Yoga! Eating Yogurt.
What we younger people lack and do not actively seek out is experience dealing with the really, really crummy stuff.
This is what you can learn from other generations:
How to give negative feedback in a constructive way.
How to fire somebody with dignity.
How to handle workplace disputes with professionalism.
How to protect employees beneath you by taking the heat from above you.
How to make decisions where there’s a clear winner and a loser.
How to deliver unpleasant news, bad news, devastating news.
It’s great that you organized a meet-up on Twitter but the concept is not unknown to your coworkers. What do you think your mentors were doing in the 60s and 70s?
Gen Y has already forgotten that Gen X used the internet to organize the Battle in Seattle. There actually was an internet in 1999.
Go back farther and remember that older generations were responsible for civil rights sit-ins, anti-nuclear demonstrations, the end of apartheid, all sorts of interesting work that was organized by humans without Macbooks. Many of these people are still alive and walking around looking like your mom and dad.
Tomorrow morning over coffee, why not ask your Executive Director to recommend the best way to stick a daisy in the barrel of a machine gun?
Your sector has laws. Unfortunately, we aren’t experts on them. It’s on us to educate ourselves about laws related to charities, nonprofits and foundations.
Young professionals need to know the difference between a charity and a nonprofit. We need to be up on the laws regarding charitable contributions.
Sometimes Wikipedia can’t solve everything. You will need to potentially ask the “old guard” at your org to help you out. The person to ask is the one in the meeting saying: “But [government reg babble]!”
Not everyone who is resistant to Gen X & Y ideas is automatically filled with “fear of change”. Sometimes they’re equipped with a greater understanding of the lay of the land than you are.
You’ll be throwing yourself up against a brick wall later on unless you listen to the pros in the know first.
I’ve committed every sin on this list! When you try to teach grandma to suck eggs, you get some memorable lessons in exactly how little you know…