Apparently Novus Asia’s Shadow Ops Department suffers from OCD. They even took a test with a pencil and everything, so it must be true.

To be clear, this is not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the debilitating form of the disease that affects approximately one in 40 adults (based on US research); this is Organisational Compulsive Disorder.

What’s that you say? Well, let us put it this way: we want to be efficient, and we think the solution is order, always. But it’s worse than that. It turns out we don’t just have OCD, but the most virulent form of it. It’s Generation X OCD.

Which got us asking a question: Gen X, Gen Y — can the two work together? Or is order and efficiency impossible when the different generations meet?


Different Strokes
That’s a timely question. Never in any time in history have so many generations been working alongside each other, with each generation influenced by different major events, social trends and cultural phenomena. These elements play a huge role in shaping perspectives and attitudes.

Novus Asia is largely made up of staff from Generation Y (people in their 20s and 30s) and Gen X (who are a tad older). So understanding the distinct values and expectations of each group should lead to a more harmonious working environment.

But if the organisational structures and processes are devised by Generation X, a group categorised as self-reliant, goal-focused and task-driven (and apparently over-hyphenated), what does this mean for Generation Y?

There is a lot of advice online regarding how to engage Generation Y, also known as Millennials. Research ranges from how to sell them something (which they apparently hate) to how to make them more productive in the workplace (are they really entitled shirkers?)

But does any of it suggest they are not or cannot be organised? Is it possible for our team to, respectfully, infect our co-workers with Generation X OCD? Should we even be trying? In pursuit of answers we devised an extremely scientific, deeply probing assessment (see Table 1) and when that failed we did some ‘proper’ research.


X + Y, not X Versus Y

Contrary to popular opinion, there is actually no clear suggestion that Millennials are disorganised or lazy. They are just as likely to contribute in an innovative and meaningful way, finding new strategies for traditional systems. What’s more, there are a large group of individuals who, regardless of generation, are just very, very bad at being dependably organised. You know who you are.

So let’s not think in terms of us-versus-them. The overriding conclusion is that we are better together. If the confidence and tech-savvy characteristics of the Millennial is married to the rigorous order of the Generation X OCD sufferer, it creates a positive mutation that can only be beneficial to the entire team. Couple this with honest and constructive communication, and there should be no reason to be divided by multigenerational differences.

Obviously these are convenient generalisations. Nothing should detract from the fact that people, regardless of their age and associated label, need to be treated as individuals, listened to and understood in their own right. There are Millennials who shun the selfie and Gen-Xers that tweet daily.

But no matter what year you were born, if you are open to change and find ways to work as a problem-solving team, you will get a lot further than rigidly sticking to what you know. Millennials and Gen-Xers who embrace this, understanding when to compromise and when to challenge, will be able to drive efficiencies in an inclusive manner.

As The Economist notes, “When a Millennial is using her smartphone in a meeting, she may be multitasking, rather than disengaged or rude. She may be resented by her older colleagues , but typically she respects them and wants to learn from them. That explains Millennials’ constant pleas for feedback. Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers may find mentoring Millennials rewarding — if they give it a try.”

Or to quote educator and businessman Stephen R Covey, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”


Table 1: An Extremely Scientific, Deeply Probing Test — Is Your Office Behaviour Gen X or Millennial?*

If you are able to see yourself mostly in the first behaviour listed for each question, you are probably looking at a developing case of Gen X OCD. If your answers are closer to five, you are probably suffering more generalised Millennial malaise.

(Disclaimer: this test is a satirical work of fiction and is not intended to malign any generation, gender, group, club, organisation, company, or individual. Certainly not Millennials, or Gen X-ers, and certainly not those in the office, or anywhere else for that matter.)

1. What solutions are currently in use for physical document storage?

  1. A labelled file, in a sequence of labelled files which share a relationship
  2. The floor
  3. Somewhere in a pile on their desk
  4. Somewhere in a pile on someone else’s desk
  5. Soft copies are on Google Drive — printing is bad for the environment, man

2. How is incoming email handled?

  1. With rigour — do, delegate, store, delete
  2. Printed out to read later
  3. Read with the intention to respond, then promptly forgetting to respond. Only responding when chased, repeatedly, after spending an hour trying to find the email in a spiralling rubbish tip of an inbox
  4. No call to action? No action
  5. Email is on its way out, let’s ‘Yammer’

3. How are shared work phones answered?

  1. In a dry monotone: “Good morning, [company name].”
  2. “[Name] speaking.”
  3. “Hello.”
  4. “Yes?”
  5. “Phone? Let’s WhatsApp or Snapchat, dude!”

4. Which description fits the standard behaviour of meeting attendees?

  1. They arrive on time with a notebook and a headful of preconceived notions
  2. They arrive on time but on the wrong day
  3. They like to be shepherded into any meeting by the organiser, who is also trying to do the same with four of their colleagues
  4. They arrive late with no idea what is being discussed, then proceed to text, swipe and scroll throughout the meeting

They Skype in from Starbucks (and like to bookend winning arguments with the ninja emoticon)

*No Gen X-ers or Millennials were harmed in the completion of this test.


Can Generation X and Generation Y Work Together?

BY Novus Asia Shadow Ops Department

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