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Unfairly Labeled by Jessica Kriegel

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Chapter 4

When Are the Labels Useful?

I have argued, thus far, that the generation labels, so easily bandied about in business literature, are largely inaccurate. I have examined commonly used stereotypes, paying particular attention to studies that use inconsistent data and authors who draw illogical conclusions, and I have demonstrated that gross generational stereotyping often leads to misunderstandings and unfair expectations. Poor management decisions based on stereotyping lead to unnecessary job loss, missed opportunities for current employees and job seekers, and inaccurate communication between employees.

I am not arguing, however, that generation labels should be discarded as completely useless. There are age-based, generational trends. Our culture is changing very rapidly. In many ways, people function differently now than they did even a generation ago. I do, emphatically, take issue, however, with how we use broad trends to narrowly label and define the individuals around us.

There is no substitute for personal understanding and communication. Let us imagine a manager who reads a report from the Pew Research Center, or more problematically, a media summary of the study. The data show that younger generations are more likely to believe that new technology makes life easier. Seventy-four percent of millennials think so; whereas 69 percent of gen Xers, 60 percent of baby boomers, and 50 percent of the silent generation agree. This is a trend: Younger generations are ...

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