Generational Differences at Work

The large majority of the people that I work with (particularly those on my team) are quite a bit older than I am. There’s one who’s only a year older, but the next youngest person is 43. I believe there’s one other person in his forties, then the remaining fifteen or so are fifty or older. So, yeah. I’m very strongly in the minority.

There seems to be a whole lot of emphasis on the fact that there are currently four different generations in the workplace together (The Greatest Generation, Boomers, Gen X, and Millenials), so I’ve actually done quite a bit of reading on the subject. A lot of people talk about the stereotypical characteristics of each generation, how you have to treat and reward each one differently, and how we can learn to be more respectful of each other’s differences. And that’s all very important. But today I would like to do the exact opposite of that and whine about one of those differences.

Old people (note that I use “old” here as a descriptive term to separate people my age from people not my age; I’m not meaning to say that 43 or even 55 is actually old) do not understand the concept of Google. Now I’m not saying they don’t now how to use Google, because I’m sure they do. The issue is that, by and large, they don’t seem to understand that there exists a capability to go and get answers to all of your questions that does not require a physical person teaching you. In other words, the purpose of a search engine seems to be all but lost on them.

Now, I get this. I remember a time when I had to go to the library and use books and encyclopedias, but I went through high school in college in a world where literally everything was accessible on the internet. People who are 20-30+ years older than me did not, so it makes sense that it may not be their first idea when they have a question. On the other hand, I work in IT and it absolutely amazes me the number of times I’ve been able to convince someone I was a super genius because I fixed whatever issue they were having in Microsoft Office… by Googling it.

But even this I could live with. I certainly don’t mind the extra points I earn by helping people with their problems, even if they could just have easily found the answer themselves. What really bothers me is that anytime we have to use a new piece of software (like Microsoft Project, for example) the majority of the people on my team absolutely insist that we have to have arrange some sort of formal training where a MS Project expert will come and teach us how to use it.

Really? Really? For starters, I assume that everyone I work with is able to use Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and Project uses the same basic layout as the rest of the Microsoft Suite so it’s not like it’s completely foreign. Secondly, Microsoft now includes tutorials in their products (they actually have for quite some time – it’s called the “Help” menu) that are both useful and easy to understand. Third, my company actually provides online video training for the basics of Project (though I doubt most people on my team know that or have tried to find it, because the whole not understanding the concept of a search engine thing). And fourth, we work in IT! Presumably you’re at least kinda good with some form of technology or you wouldn’t be here. Why people are incapable of just sitting down and clicking around until they figure it out (or, failing that, going to Google) is completely beyond me.

*sigh*

In other news, you know all those annoying/lazy/whiny/whatever kids you have to deal with in school? I’ve realized as of late that those people grow up and get successful jobs and they don’t get any less annoying. What a shame.

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