The generation game of thrones…
Updated: Sep 1
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground
There are hundreds if not thousands of sources online that talk about how different generations respond to different stimulus, how they work and want different things from life, and how they approach society, the world and life in general.
I don’t want to cover old ground with subjects that are covered by far more experienced and knowledgeable people than I am. I want to give a crash course into conversations that happen every day and conversations that have happened to me if only last week.
Brexit means Brexit after all…
My main focus will be around two generations. Those affectionately called ‘Boomers‘ and those somewhat less affectionately called ‘Millennials‘. To summarise; Boomers are c.50 years old and older and Millennials are c.40 years and younger as at writing.
This graph to me summarises the situation in our society, in our business and in our country very neatly.
You have an older cohort who remember the post war ‘boom’ and believe that it will be possible to return to such an era. You have a younger generation who are looking at the long term impact of decisions thinking about how best to position the world for the future.
I do not want to dwell on the politics here. I just want to show the definitions of the generations I am going to talking about now.
Trying to live in the middle ground…
I have had many conversations recently about talking to line managers, parents and grandparents. A lot of these have come from hearing my Breaking the Stigma talk where I explain the difficulties of talking to my parents about mental health and suicide.
Don’t get me wrong, these are tough subjects to talk about anyway, but it is particularly hard trying to talk to someone about something that matters a lot to you when they don’t understand it as it just isn’t talked about amongst themselves and their peers.
Not only are you trying to seek guidance from someone who doesn’t understand, you are also trying to educate someone who has little to no idea about the subject matter.
For me this process was extremely painful.
Someone recently told me the story of how they are trying to raise their child with good habits at the dining table. They don’t let their child have their phone of tablet out whilst at the table. However when their parents visit, they feel awkward asking the same thing of their parents – even though their parents taught them the same thing about bringing books to the table.
Not only do you need to educate your child, but you need to educate your parents because times have changed just that much!
This is exactly the same in the work environment.
In a work environment you are not only responsible for managing those people who work for you, but for managing those people for whom you work – upward management / upward delegation.
To call back to my previous article about someone who wanted a point heard by their senior leadership team; they needed to manage their relationship and educate those people who were of an older generation about mental health and its importance.
I talk in that article about some of the stigma attached to being a millennial, but really, there is nothing different between the generations in a lot of senses apart from a willingness to communicate.
We sat at our laptops and typed away, and found that we each had something to say…
Because millennials have been raised with access to social media and ‘safe places’ to talk (read: be anonymous and speak without fear of reprimand or reprisal because in the early days of the internet no one really knew who you were) they are a lot more confident talking about everything.
We all have our ups and downs in life and our careers. This is the nature of life.
When I speak to my parents and other members of older generations, the response I hear most often is;
We felt exactly the same, we were just raised to have a stiff upper lip and get on with it…
I try not to read into anything about whether I don’t have a stiff upper lip or am unable to get on with it, but if you boil the sentiment down to its core it is;
We understand but can’t accept it ourselves…
And this is why we are living in the generation game of thrones. Not because there are fundamental differences in the people involved (there are fundamental differences in the world, but that’s another matter), we are mostly the same after all, but we are here because the people who are our seniors, our parents, our leaders and the people guiding our society and culture forward can’t face into situations as easily as the younger generation can and are less willing to move on their opinions.
You win or you die…
I hate saying this, but I personally feel that we are unlikely to see significant changes in business and society as a whole until the older generations are not in the driving seat.
Right now there is a lot of self preservation going on, positioning for a fall, covering of backs etc. Due to modern day incentives (stock options, delayed bonuses, equity, pensions etc) people are invested in the companies they are involved often for a long time after their tenure is over.
As such, their motivation is one of ensuring that their successor at least maintains the status quo of their “investment position” if not increases its value.
How best to maintain the status quo?
Appoint someone similar to yourself!
What happens now is that those people who are similar to those of their predecessor and successor end up being promoted inside organisations that offer such rewards and the cycle continues into the next generation.
None of this is inherently bad or wrong, you just need to see it and understand it.
This is one of the reasons why millennials are moving further away from large corporates and into the world of start up businesses.
Not because of a greater opportunity.
But because they seek to be maintain their individuality.
Those millennials in large corporates (myself included) ultimately either try to change to fit the mould or leave knowing it just wasn’t right for them and that ‘they never stood a chance’.
The key thing here is knowing that if you are in this situation, don’t be ashamed of it and don’t be afraid to admit it.
There is no right or wrong way to live your life and there is no right or wrong way to act in a given situation.
Continue to be yourself and find what is right for you.
We only get one life, so make it count and make it enjoyable.
and remember “Once you have accepted your flaws no one can use them against you”
Winter (change) is coming…
Don’t lose heart.
Since I started talking openly about mental health and started doing talks I have noticed a strong trend in people I have spoken to and their responses.
Every person I have spoken to has been positive about what I am doing and every person would like to see change in some way, just don’t know how to implement or get there.
A lot of the younger generations are beginning to stand up and speak out whilst a lot of the older generations are trying to understand and listen to what needs to be done.
Whilst the process of change is hard (as someone who has worked in change management…) and there will always be detractors and resistors to change, the end result will be worth it and the working environment will hopefully become a better, more accepting, more honest and more genuine place.
I look forward to a day where people can say “you know what, i’m really struggling today and need to take a time out” and their line manager say “If there is anything I can do, just let me know. Get some rest and come back refreshed”.
It takes courage to admit fear…
Christmas is around the corner, the holiday are officially upon us and this will likely be my last article before we start new in 2019.
2018 has been a crazy year for me. I have learned a lot about myself and believe I am truly in a better place now than I have been for a long time.
I still live with depression. I am still working through my divorce. I still struggle with loneliness. I have my faults but I have accepted them all and shared them widely to try and help those others who do not necessarily have anyone else.
Christmas is a tough time of year for a lot of people.
I struggle with Christmas.
I feel a lot of anxiety towards gift giving and gift receiving. I feel a burden of expectation that I should be happy and enjoy every moment.
I do Christmas for other people.
I put a smile on over my usual blank grimace. I wear that Christmas jumper that I hate which makes me look fatter than I am. I buy gifts people don’t want. I eat turkey that I don’t like. I watch films and TV I have no interest in because it’s ‘Christmas-y’.
Not this year.
This year I am going to be doing a lot of Christmas by myself (with Pika) and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve said I don’t want to buy presents for people and I don’t expect anyone to buy me anything. My family have understood this.
I’ve said I want to see my immediate family but not for a Christmas dinner, just for breakfast and to be present, but that I don’t want the pressure of going to a big meal and being expected to enjoy it. My family have understood this.
Saying this openly and facing the fear of disappointment means I am going to have a great Christmas doing Christmas how I want to spend it.
This year I want to spend it alone and reflect on 2017 and 2018 and how I’m going to make 2019 a stand out year for me.
I may want to be with my (wider) family more in future years, but for now this is what is best for my own mental health. My family have understood this.
To anyone who reads this I wish you the best of holidays doing what you want to do. Be yourself and enjoy it.
I will continue to stream over the holiday period although I may be playing different games as we can get a composition together for raiding. If you are free and have time, do feel free to tune in.
Thank you and Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019 to you all