Generation Why?

Friday, March 6, 2009

I had an eye-opening experience this week. I've always sort of fancied myself as one of the 'young' people at work. Since I work for the government, the demographic is skewed out to the older end of the workforce. I started working there almost 20 years ago, but I have rarely encountered people much younger than me. I usually work with a bunch of people in their 50's (read: conservative). I'm sure they find some of my behaviours, fashions, and work methods strange. They are too gracious to say anything, but I'm sure they have had plenty of chuckles at my expense.

And I finally know how they feel.

I was in a meeting on Monday and a rather young man was there. He seemed about 25, but honestly, my ability to judge the ages has never had a span of more than 10 years on either side of my own age. I see young people and they could be 16 or 26. I have really no idea without talking to them, and even then...

This colleague, with his decidedly Gen Y name, which I can't put in print as it is too distinctive to be anonymous, sported what could only be described as a Flock of Seagulls-Lite hairstyle.Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls

He wore a very traditional blue dress shirt and tie, with black pants, and some old-school Adidas shoes, which he took off during the meeting, so he could sit cross-legged on his office chair.It was a pretty intense meeting, so we took a break after about an hour and a half. Two of the people in the meeting went to another floor in the building to buy coffee. The Gen Y guy commented that the coffee maker had a lot of plastic parts and that their coffee was full of estrogen. I had bought a Pepsi in a can because I didn't know where to buy a decent cup of tea. Thank goodness the news that pop cans are lined with BPA didn't hit the news until after the meeting. I'm sure he would have mentioned that I was endangering my health.

Even though we were working very hard and didn't have much time for small talk, Gen Y guy still had time to mention that his boss' vehicle is a gas guzzler and that he drives a compact with good fuel economy.

If only we'd had time to discuss the merits of recycling, thrift store shopping, snowboarding and vegan cuisine, we would have hit every cliché in the book!

What I find interesting was my reaction Gen Y guy's behaviour. I immediately felt compelled to take his side and show him that I was still 'with it' enough to 'get' him. It is a bit of a protective thing that I find myself doing again and again. I want him to feel comfortable, so I find some common ground for us. I'm looking forward to our next meeting. In a show of solidarity, I was thinking I might wear neon green slouchy socks with stirrup pants and high heels and with a matching neon green stretchy headband. No wait! Legwarmers! Oh, I can't decide.

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