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PCB: AN INDUSTRY PROBLEM? Outline. 1. Origin of Current Concern - Ecological Effects. 2. Toxicity, Fire and other Health Hazards. 3. General Electric Usage.
BY Joseph D. Conklin
An Age-old Problem Tips for navigating a multigenerational workforce My coworker, Helen, is a member
the years formed in my mind the notion of
edged the value of venting your frustra-
of Generation Y. I’m a “boomer,” a cohort
“war stories” as a tried, true and valuable
tions once in a while. But eventually,
that didn’t get its own letter. When you
communication technique for passing on
you must stop venting and start doing
meet Helen, the words that come to mind
organizational wisdom to the younger
are energetic, enthusiastic and extrovert-
ed. She doesn’t slow down for a second.
To hear Helen associate negativity
Get on their level
with this phrase provoked my curiosity.
I asked Helen how organizations should
it is to hear certain phrases. I was in a
I caught up with Helen and asked her to
pass on their wisdom to younger staff. “I
staff meeting once when Helen reported
learn best when I have mentors. I think
The older I get, the more interesting
on a recent leadership training class
“I called them ‘war stories’ because
this is the rule for young people. It is
she attended. She disliked hearing the
some of the attendees sounded as if
easier to accept what older people have
organizational war stories. The phrase
they were fighting a war. They con-
to say when they respect us first as a
“war stories” takes me back to my first
sumed the limited discussion time
person. Ideally, bosses should invest at
job after college.
available just to complain about how
least half their time being coaches and
My boss was a retired lieutenant
bad their jobs, bosses and coworkers
not just telling people what to do without
colonel from the U.S. Army who ar-
were. None of them offered any solu-
offering their guidance.”
ranged first-line supervisor training for
tions. Young people like me want to be
When coaching younger generations
a defense contractor. Many attendees
part of the solution, not just hear about
in the workforce, one size does not fit all.
were ex-military, and one of the instruc-
problems,” she said.
“Each young person has a unique com-
tors retired from the U.S. Air Force. He
I admired her attitude, but I thought to
munication and learning style. Bosses
received glowing reviews because of his
myself that it is not always clear whether
who take the time to learn and reach out
ability to pull old stories out of his mili-
to change things or to leave them be. A
to us on our wavelength will have our
tary hat to reinforce the main points of
wrong decision could be hazardous to ca-
respect. At this point in my career, I’m
the course. Similar experiences through
reers and organizations. Helen acknowl-
most interested in what I should learn to advance, either through promotions or lateral moves in the organization,” Helen said. Someday soon, Generation Y will sit at the head of the table. “Should the older generation regard the younger as apprentices and help them move from journeymen to masters of their craft?” I asked Helen. “Sounds like you get it,” she said. “Speaking for myself, young people are ready for challenges. Step back and throw us some. And take time to listen to us. My generation is used to switching priorities quickly when situations change rapidly. Our facility with technology means multitasking is more second nature to us.”
50 QP • www.qualityprogress.com
Let them make their mark
Next, I asked Helen if she has heard
4. Take responsibility for what you can do.
“It seems important to be free to take the
any helpful war stories with lessons that
high-level goals of the organization and
she liked since the class. “Funny you
I said, “That’s quite a haul for one
use your own imagination and energy to
should ask. I just added a story to my
story, and it all sounds solid. Will you be
fill in and execute the details.” I said.
personal stock the other day,” Helen said.
adding more stories like it?” “You bet,” Helen concluded with a
“That’s it, or at least a big part of the
“My boss, an awesome mentor, was tell-
picture,” Helen said. “Young people are in-
ing me how she handled a project where
laugh. “I want to build up my supply now.
terested in what the older generation has
someone on the team wasn’t pulling their
I won’t be in the younger generation for-
to say, but don’t talk to us as if you have
weight,” she said. There were four valu-
ever.” That triggered a smile of my own.
all the answers. And if we go ahead and
try something you suggest, remember: We
1. Not all problems require complicated
As Helen turned to go, I thought about I might have to say to the younger genera-
may not do it exactly like you did.”
2. Focus on the situation and not the
I followed up with, “I imagine we a way to avoid facing serious problems?”
3. You can’t control others; you can only control your reaction to others.
tion. And, just as importantly, how to say it. QP
shouldn’t use our respect for the past as
my next steps. I was left wondering what
Conklin on careers
Joseph D. Conklin is a long-time QP contributor. Find his previous columns in the Career Corner archive under the “Departments and Columns” tab at www. qualityprogress.com.
JOSEPH D. CONKLIN is a mathematical statistician at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He earned a master’s degree in statistics from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. A senior member of ASQ, Conklin is an ASQ-certified quality manager, quality engineer, quality auditor, reliability engineer and Six Sigma Black Belt.
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