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The Work Culture and the New Breed: What the Old Wineskin Means for the New Wine

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Work is an integral cog in the wheel of human civilization. Without it, there would be no societal sustenance. The need for food, clothing, and shelter are basic things that propel us to work. If working is such a vital part of our existence, it is safe to say that working is a culture for everybody, regardless of race or gender.

However, there will always be change. The human population has experienced it and will continue to experience it. Work culture is the aggregate of all interactions, beliefs, and behaviours between employees and employers. This culture makes up the atmosphere of the work environment.

Over the years, the work culture has changed due to technical, political, climatic, and economic advancements. Right from the earliest forms of pre-industrial work in agriculture to the industrial era of heavy machines and mass production, all the way down to the corporate workplace (from which we are now slowly moving away), it is a fact that as we humans morph, the way we work morphs too.

If no one ever conceived the idea behind tractors, there would be nothing like mass production in agriculture. If the internet were never invented, we would not have the borderless interactions we have today. Humans from every passing generation have their own peculiarities. Their lives, including how they work, are shaped by the resources at their disposal and the realities of their time, including a pandemic.

You may wonder why we have such a worldwide contention in the work culture today. For instance, The Great Resignation. In late 2020, it was observed that a higher-than-usual number of employees had voluntarily left their jobs. For some, it was influenced by the lockdown. So, resuming physical work created a disparity between the day-to-day tasks during lockdown (mostly fun time with family & friends and retrospection on purpose) and the true meaning behind their daily grind.

For others, they simply skilled up. They got more attractive offers and didn’t delay pursuing them. For the younger generation (the new breed), according to a study by Edelman DXI in 2021. 54% of Gen Z considered leaving their jobs due to the inability to get a word in during meetings or an absolute lack of a sense of belonging. You wouldn’t blame them.

Likewise, you can’t blame the older generation for what they experienced in their respective workplaces. 30 years is a lot of years apart in culture, economics, politics, resources, and thought patterns.

For instance, a sustained culture is the Martyr approach, which means an employee is ideal if they are willing to sacrifice and work their fingers to the bone as an act of loyalty to their company.

The reverse is the case for the younger generation, and it’s not because of disloyalty. They have more technology to their advantage. They execute tasks faster because they are on the lookout for the simplest ways to do things. An older manager at work may be quick to assume such an employee is lazy or not putting in their all. That would be an inaccurate analysis.

One time, I was on a contract which involved daily tasks. The next logical thing was done: I created a calendar. First, it was on Airtable, but my manager found it difficult to use. Then, we moved to spreadsheets until we stopped that too. We both settled on dropping chats whenever we needed to communicate.

We have enough gaps in our existence already. Things only worsen when we fail to understand how we can synchronise our work experiences. As it is often said, no experience is a waste. But it seems no one is willing to listen to the other. This breeds nothing but chaos.

If the older “gen’’ wants to keep up with how things are done, they will remain slow. If the new breed decides to shut the door on every slow method of the work sector, it can only mean one thing; they have to do a lot of restructuring and rebuilding, which takes a lot of time. We don’t have so much time, do we? A better way is to pick up what’s left and scale it.

There is a need to understand what works for whom. In an article by Crystal Jones, senior staff at AEU (American Equity Underwriters), she wrote about what motivates employees from different generations.

If you work with Baby Boomers (1946–1964), competitive tasks and the need for recommendations are good motivators. Generation X (1965–1976) thrives when there is room for them to share their knowledge and train new hires on company culture. Millennials (1977 – 1997) care about a healthy work-life balance and feedback on their performance. The new breed, Gen Z (1998–2010), values a work-life balance over any older generation. They understand they must work as much as possible, have fun and live outside their jobs.

There is no better time for the upsurge in learning soft skills than now. Here’s why:

If Gen Z fails to understand the older generation, inclusion with the newer generation (Alpha) would be difficult.

Surely, time is a river, and we will all catch up, but I hope our meeting is at midstream.

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