“She’s so immature.” This is a favorite insult among younger people (it’s usually said with a somewhat immature-sounding snarl).
Certainly there are many occasions that call for this comment… Names changed to protect the young.
- Tom, age 22, decides to take up pipe smoking because it seems like a good affectation.
- Jean, 23, spends most of her day at the office with her phone on her lap so she can send and receive texts from her friends, who are doing the same thing at their own offices.
- Caleb, 25, spends the first part of the day wandering around the workplace asking everyone how their weekend was. He sits down at his desk in earnest at 10:00 with his breakfast next to his mouse.
As much as many of us crave youth, we despise immaturity, usually denying our own immaturity in the process.
“When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, to think as a child, to reason as a child; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a child.” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The Biblical Paul reminds us that life has a natural cycle.
In other words, young people are supposed to be immature. The Bible recommends that young people listen to their elders, but there are also many admonitions to elders not to exceed their authority.
How does this play out in the workplace? People just starting out their careers come to offices desperately needing guidance on everything from how (and when) to answer an email, to the location of the kitchen (and how much time they should spend in the kitchen).
Sometimes there are workplace rules, like an employee manual which struggles to keep up with trends and tools (has excessive Facebook messaging been forbidden in your workplace yet?)
Often, however, younger workers are left to their own devices as older workers, toiling behind closed doors, struggle to keep their own toehold. Or an insecure manager might micro-manage an employee’s work, leaving him to think of his boss as the enemy.
Formal mentorship programs try to bridge the gap. These may be doomed to fail if:
- a company does not already have a culture where experience is admired
- the experienced people are overworked and overtaxed, so they don’t feel they have time to offer their skills
- the younger people are also overworked, so they don’t feel they have the time to participate
- there is an absence of trust, so that people feel the difficulties they share with their mentors may later be used against them
- there simply are not enough older people in the workplace – they got trucked out to make room for the pool table
Does your corporate culture encourage a continuing, respectful dialog between older and younger workers? If not, what steps do you think should be taken to promote this? Please share your ideas in the comments here!