There is a great move happening in corporate America today. With people getting tired of the 24/7 workout grind with technology and the difference in generations in the workplace, they are quitting their jobs to start their own businesses or find other opportunities. Our guest, Dr. Joanna Dodd Massey, talks to us about the five generations in the workforce, examining how they behave and why, and how that impacts what’s going on in corporate America. Dr. Massey is the author of the book Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace. Tune in to find out more about what has been dubbed as The Great Resignation.
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Dealing And Working With 5 Generations With Dr. Joanna Dodd Massey
As most of you guys know when we start moving into November and December, I start moving into what you need to know for the next year. What skills are you planning? All that good stuff because it’s awful if you wait until the last minute. If you get to January and you don’t have a plan for the year, you’re going to be a little behind. Our guest is super busy. I’m doing the introduction independent of her.
One of the things we’re going to be talking about that’s relevant at this time is there is a great resignation going on in the United States. That means a lot of people are starting their own businesses. They’re quitting their jobs, and they are tired of that 9:00 to 5:00 grind. Our guest is going to talk to us about the five generations that are in the workforce, and how that impacts what’s going on in Corporate America. It leads into the next episode, talking about The Great Resignation. People are getting tired of the 24/7 workout grind with technology. I have to add the difference in generations that are in the workplace. There are some that have different views when you have five generations there.
Our guest is Joanna Dodd Massey. With more than 25 years of experience in the media industry at companies such as Conde Nast, Lionsgate, CBS, Viacom, Discovery and Hasbro, she is an experienced C-level Communications Executive and Board Director. She’s managed crisis communications, brand reputation, culture transformations, which we’re going through at this time, and corporate social responsibility.
Dr. Massey is a communications consultant, as well as the Founder and CEO of Marketing Communications Think Tank, a benefit corporation whose mission is to shift the way we communicate about politicized social issues, such as racism, environment and gun control so that diversified groups of people can have constructive discussions, contentions and debates.
She is also a sought-after corporate speaker and the author of two books, CULTURE SHOCK: Surviving Five Generations In One Workplace and Communicating During A Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High. In addition, Dr. Massey is an adjunct professor at Columbia University, where she teaches a Master’s level course in Corporate Communications.
As a board director, she is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, the NACD. She serves as the Independent Board Director for KULR Technology Group, which is a publicly held group, where she is the Chair and Nominating Governance Committee, as well as a member of the Audit and Compensation Committee. She is also an independent director on the board of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that oversees the Golden Globe Awards.
In addition, she’s on the Advisory Board of the financial startup, 8B Education Investments, and on the Advisory Board of entrepreneurial ventures that promote social good. She served on the Board of Directors of The Resolution Project as a member of the Audit Committee, the University of Southern California New York Alumni Club as a member of Executive Board, and Colors LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services as a Non-Executive Director.
She is an Angel investor who advises female entrepreneurs at the seed funding stage. She previously served as a Managing Director at Golden Seeds, an early-stage female-led firm with more than $125 million in total investments in over 170 female-run businesses, and she’s a member of the Angel Capital Association. She holds four graduate degrees in both Business and Psychology, and she’s a member of the American Psychological Association.
You guys are going to enjoy this interview. One of the reasons I brought this about is for many of you, The Great Resignation is an opportunity to change careers. For another group of my audience, The Great Resignation and what’s going on in Corporate America is an opportunity for you to pick up new entrepreneurial clients because people are leaving in droves and starting their own business. I hope you enjoy this.
Welcome to the show. It’s so great to have you, doctor.
Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here. Thanks for having me.
I’m excited to have this conversation. We’ve seen a huge amount of resignations in 2021 and your specialty about the five generations inside of the workplace might have a little bit to do with that. Can you tell us a little about the book you wrote and all these people in the workplace?
Five Generations At Work
I love to. It’s one of my favorite topics and they do have a little something to do with The Great Resignation that’s happening as it’s been dubbed. The book is CULTURE SHOCK: Surviving Five Generations In One Workplace. One of the things that are going on is we have these older generations, Baby Boomers, the silent generation. They’re in their late-50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, and they’re not retiring.
Why are they not retiring? We’re living healthier and longer. We’re working longer because we can and we want to. It’s creating a log jam for these younger generations. What you’ve got now is you’ve got a span of five generations in the workplace. We’ve never had that. You’ve got new generations that are large. The Baby Boomers were the largest generation in the country, then came the Millennials. Now Gen Z is the largest generation in the country.
Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce because of their age and of other people who are aging out. We are seeing a lot of changes happening because of that. I always like to remind people who are resistant, as human beings, we are genetically and biologically predisposed to resist change. It’s part of our system. The people like the Boomers and the Gen X-ers are like, “What are these Millennials doing? Who are they? Why are they changing all this stuff?”
What these Gen Z-ers forgets is that the Boomers were the original hippies. They sparked the hippie counterculture movement. They set out to change the world. They came into the workforce and wanted to blow up everything. That’s figurative, not literally because they were the peace-loving generation. Now we’ve got Millennials and Gen Z doing the same. It’s ironic that the original hippies are like, “That’s not okay.”
Me being from the Boomer generation, I’m also from a generation who was raised by people from the greatest generation, which suffered a lot of the things that we didn’t. I feel like we have a different work ethic than some of the people that are down in the other generations below us as well because our parents live through The Great Depression, not two World Wars, but for most of them, one World War. At least, we’ve never had to experience that.
The Boomers and Gen X had the Korean War and Cold War, especially in the ’70s. That was very scary but it wasn’t an actual war. The closest we’ve come, at least in the United States for the Millennials is the attack on September 11, 2001.
How does each interact in the workplace with one another being that they’re so different? There’s a whole generation that were latchkey kids that are so different from the Boomers too.
It’s Gen X. The X is used in The X Factor or The X-Files. It’s the unknown generation. They were a very small generation. What happened was the Boomers happened because the soldiers came back from World War II. There’s a big spike in birth rates. Suddenly, you’d have this very large generation known as the Baby Boomers, who then turned around that generation plus a little more of the silence who birthed the Gen X. They tapered it down so not as many kids. It’s a very small generation.
As human beings, we are genetically and biologically predisposed to resist change. It’s part of our system.
They ended up getting sandwiched between the Boomers and Millennials who are two large generations. Generation X is now thought of as America’s middle child. You are correct. They did start out as being known as the latchkey kids. When they were younger, they were the first generation to have both parents in the workforce in a big way.
From a work perspective, they’re a little different because they’re the ones in the workplace. They came home every day. They forged their own way. They don’t like to be told what to do as much. Is that right?
They are highly independent. They are a generation that was raised during a time where we believe that the prevailing parenting technique was, “These are mini-adults. We treat them like little adults. They should basically raise themselves.” A lot of them came home to empty homes or to a caretaker of some sort, maybe a family member or maybe not.
They were independent and left on their own. As a result, what you have is a highly independent generation. They are also a generation that followed because of their size. They haven’t had a big impact. We never had a President of the United States who’s a Gen X-er. Had Pete Buttigieg got in the Democratic nomination, we would’ve gone from Boomer to Millennial and skipped over X. As it is, we still don’t have an X-er. They’ve made an impact but it hasn’t been huge.
What happened was because of their size partially, they came into the workforce and they followed along with what the Boomer said. They did as they were told, “You go into Corporate America. You work your way up to the ladder. You work these crazy hours. You become a workaholic.” You do those types of things. They followed without asking a lot of questions or challenging that much. Part of the reason they didn’t challenge is because they didn’t have a microphone with which to challenge. Back in those days if you wanted to get something put in the press, you had to be somebody of importance.
Now, Millennials and Gen Z, we have social media. Whatever they say can be heard loudly. They have a microphone that no other generation had. They are able to speak up in a way that Gen X couldn’t or wasn’t able to do so with enough volume. What happens is Gen X now serves as somewhat of a bridge in the workplace. I came up the ranks with the Boomers but what those Millennials and Gen Z-ers are saying makes sense to me. I wish we had thought of that. Let’s roll with it. They are a good middle child. They’re good at balancing.
The Great Resignation: Why People Are Leaving
Inside of the workplace and related to what’s going on with The Great Resignation, how does all this fit in? Why are people leaving?
There are a lot of theories on this. I will share from my perspective, what’s going on, which is twofold. We were already seeing this prior to the pandemic. We just weren’t seeing it in the same way. There used to have an attitude. If you’re a Boomer or Gen X-er, you stay at the same company for at least 3 to 5 years. If you leave before that, it’s because you’re not good at your job and you couldn’t keep it.
You used to look at someone who job hopped and think that’s a problem employee. Millennials have the exact opposite opinion. Their attitude is if they’re still at the same company within 2 to 3 years, it’s because they weren’t good enough to get hired away, so they job-hop. Gen Z-ers are worse. They will leave a company after twelve months as we’ve been seeing to go to a friend’s or family’s startup, or their own startup.
The part of it is twofold. These two generations don’t believe that Corporate America is the answer to their careers. The reason they don’t is because of the ages they were in 2008 during The Great Recession when they watched their parents, grandparents and siblings get laid off without enough compensation and struggle for a long time. They don’t trust the financial industry, Corporate America and any sector. They think that entrepreneurism is the way.
That’s part of what we’re seeing, and then the other part of what we’re seeing is that the pandemic gave all of the generations an opportunity to reassess life. I especially look at the Boomers and the X-ers, especially Gen X because they’re not exactly retiring age. Their oldest is 55. They’re right at that sweet spot where they’re like, “I spent my whole career at my desk. I missed my kids’ recitals. I missed soccer games. I ate lunch at my desk. I gave myself an ulcer. I missed date night with my husband, spouse or partner a million times. For what? Here, I had a year at home with everybody. I can do my job perfectly well. Why am I living the rat race the way I’m living it?”
The Lure Of Entrepreneurship
I started my first business in 2000, and it was much that way because I either had a commute or I was on an airplane. I didn’t want to be like that anymore. That’s how my parents were. They couldn’t get off work to do all of that. I didn’t miss much of my childhood and neither did their children. From the entrepreneurial standpoint, this is what I worry about. I see a couple of things with what we do.
First of all, I see the Boomers coming in. They’ve worked in Corporate America their entire lives, and now they want to start a business. They don’t know all the ins and outs because they’ve always gotten a paycheck. They don’t know those little things to run a business, and then I worry about the other end of the spectrum because they’re only staying at a job a year. Do you understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur? What are your thoughts on that?
The pandemic gave all of the generations an opportunity to reassess life.
I’ll address it from both sides. Let me start with the latter, as young people coming in, wanting to be entrepreneurs who don’t have enough of a business background. I do Angel investing also. As an investor, we always put someone with more experience right in the mix. We always do it because of exactly what you said. The entrepreneur isn’t always open to it but if they’re not open to it, that says something about the entrepreneur and that’s not necessarily an investment I’m going to make personally as an investor. There are plenty of young people who recognize that they do need advice and consultation. They are willing to take it, not all of them but many.
From the other spectrum, the older people who have always had a paycheck and now we’re trying to be entrepreneurs. They were like, “What is this Wild Wild West crazy world. This is not as easy as it looks.” They interestingly do very well bringing in young people. One of the things I didn’t say earlier when we were talking about The Great Resignation is that another part of the problem is we have a generation now, Gen Z in particular, but also younger Millennials. By younger Millennials, we’ll say people between the ages of 25, 30 and 31.
This is a group that in order to get into college had to have worked at a nonprofit. Some of them have started their own nonprofits. Many of them have run their own startups, whether it be a t-shirt business or something else of that nature. I can’t tell you how many of my friends’ kids were doing their own businesses and getting money that they then use to put themselves through college. They then needed to get more of that practical experience during college. By the time these kids hit the workforce, they are more experienced and more educated than any generation that’s ever entered a workforce before. Some of them served as CEOs and presidents of their own companies, CMOs, CTOs and CIOs. They’ve sat in the seats.
They come in and we tell them, “Go sit at that desk, punch a bunch of numbers, and do a bunch of administrative stuff.” They’re bored to tears. We’re not challenging them. They say to us, “I need more responsibility. I want to be involved in that project. When do I get to meet with the president? How come I don’t get to meet with the client?” We have this attitude like, “You’re not allowed to. You’re too junior. You don’t have the experience,” but they do. We have to recognize that or they leave.
That makes a lot of sense because I remember my first job out of college, I was bored to tears before I got in and did that. In the Boomer generation, there were a lot of people who had their own jobs. I had a job from the time I was fifteen years old. There are a lot of people that do get into their own thing as well. What are people doing during The Great Resignation? What we’re prepping people for is if you’re going to start your own business, you need help. You don’t open one day and you’re doing the accounting and sales. What do these people need to understand to do that?
There are a lot of organizations like what you’re doing that are helping provide information now and training on how do you market yourself? Where do you get the right accountant, virtual assistant, virtual CFO or CMO? How do you do social media? All of this stuff that we don’t understand because it’s one thing to have a good idea, but you’ve got to support it on the backend with legal and financial processes, but then you’ve got to promote it. Promoting it can take as much time as doing the work itself. I speak from experience.
As someone who’s been in Corporate America for decades but also been an entrepreneur and running my own consulting firm. The amount of work I have to do to promote myself, network and do social media plus do the work that I get that comes in, plus be the lawyer that does the contracts. It’s a lot and hard to manage. It’s about taking the time, which they don’t have. It’s taking the time to educate yourself, network and get the contacts you need so that you can bring in other people. I now use this virtual CFO. I wish I’d brought this woman many years ago.
We did a whole revamp of our processes to streamline. It’s like, “Why didn’t I do this before? Now I’m freed up.” It’s crazy but what we’re seeing is a lot of these people jumping in. They do have a great idea but they don’t have the foundation. They’re built on the sand when they get into trouble because it’s hard to wear all the hats inside of a company. Which generation is fairing the best on this from the outside looking in, in your opinion?
The Transfer Of Wealth
I can tell you from studies that have been done that the Baby Boomers financially are in the best position of any generation in the United States now. We are about to experience a massive transfer of wealth in the US as the Baby Boomer generation ages out and passes away. It’s not happening on mass yet because they’re between the ages of 55, 72 or 73. We’re not seeing it that in a big way but we will.
That transfer of money will go to the Millennials because their parents were silent generation and some Boomers, but Boomers primarily birth Millennials. That will certainly help the Millennials. Gen X is struggling financially for two reasons. One is they’re right at that point in the corporate pyramid where they should be hitting the C-Suite and those Boomers and silent generation are not leaving. They’re stuck and doing that thing that we were talking about, trying to go out and be entrepreneurs or they’re stuck in the job.
There’s only so much hopping around you can do if you can’t get to the top. The second thing is Gen X has lived through four recessions during their career. That’s done some damage. They are not doing as well financially as the Boomers. Millennials graduated. The oldest of them graduated during the 2008 recession. That has hurt them financially. The pandemic hurt again.
I’m not necessarily talking about office workers. I’m talking more about people who are in sectors where they’re not at the office. They’re more on some a factory line or in a job. Unless you work at Amazon, Walmart or in an industry that was considered the first responder, they got hit hard. Gen Z is to be determined how well they’ll do. They’re at their oldest in the workforce at 24.
There’s only so much hopping around you can do if you can’t get to the top.
My kids did very well. I have a Millennial and a Gen Z. What would we call them during the pandemic? Urgent workers or the people who work during it.
They were necessary workers.
They both survived very well during that. This has been interesting. Thank you so much. Where can we find your books if we’re interested? You have two books.
Thank you so much. They’re on Amazon.com. CULTURE SHOCK was in Barnes & Noble, but it’s two books. One is CULTURE SHOCK, which I talked about, and the other is called Communicating During A Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High. I talked a lot about how people respond to stress. I talked about neuroscience but I don’t talk about it in a dry way. My writing is entertaining. It’s easy reading.
I love to inform people what goes on in your mind when you get stressed so that you know what your reaction is when you hit that fight, flight or freeze moment. You also know what somebody else’s reaction is and how to communicate with them. I provide a lot of tools and stuff like that. Communicating During A Crisis is a shorter book and I used to say to people, “It’s a quick read. You’ll get through it in an hour and a half.” I’ve been told I have to stop saying that because people are underlining and taking notes when it takes longer than an hour and a half.
It’s almost like the five language thing where, “Are you speaking the right love language?” In a crisis, “Are you speaking the same language as they are?” If you’re someone who freezes and shuts down versus someone who’s going to vomit emotion all over you. How are you going to react in those situations? That’s something crucial. Thank you so much. This has been great.
Thank you. I enjoyed talking with you.
- Joanna Dodd Massey
- Marketing Communications Think Tank
- CULTURE SHOCK: Surviving Five Generations In One Workplace
- Communicating During a Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High
- KULR Technology Group
- Hollywood Foreign Press Association
- 8B Education Investments
- Colors LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services
- Golden Seeds
- Angel Capital Association
- American Psychological Association
- Barnes & Noble – CULTURE SHOCK
About Dr. Joanna Dodd Massey
With more than 25 years of experience in the media industry at companies, such as Condé Nast, Lionsgate, CBS, Viacom, Discovery and Hasbro, Dr. Joanna Dodd Massey is an experienced C-level communications executive and Board Director. She has managed crisis communications, brand reputation, culture transformation, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Currently, Dr. Massey is a communications consultant, as well as Founder & CEO of The Marketing Communications Think Tank, a Benefit Corporation whose mission is to shift the way we communicate about politicized social issues, such as racism, the environment and gun control, so that diverse groups of people can have a constructive discussion not a contentious debate. She is also a sought-after corporate speaker and the author of two books, Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace and Communicating During a Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High. In addition, Dr. Massey is an adjunct professor at Columbia University, where she teaches a masters-level course in corporate communications.
As a Board Director, Dr. Massey is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). She currently serves as an Independent Board Director for KULR Technology Group (OTCQB:KULR), where she is Chair of the Nominating & Governance Committee, as well as a member of the Audit and Compensation Committees. She is also an Independent Director on the Board of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that oversees the Golden Globe Awards. In addition, she is on the Advisory Board of financial startup 8B Education Investments, and on the Advisory Board and The Resolution Project, a nonprofit that funds and mentors undergraduate students with entrepreneurial ventures that promote social good. Formerly, she served on the Board of Directors of the following 501(c)(3) organizations: The Resolution Project as a member of the Audit committee, the University of Southern California New York Alumni Club as a member of the Executive Board, and Colors LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services as a NonExecutive Director.
Dr. Massey is also an angel investor who advises female entrepreneurs at the seed fundingstage. She previously served as a Managing Director at Golden Seeds, an early-stage female-led investment firm with more than $125 million in total investments in over 170 female run businesses, and she is a member of the Angel Capital Association.Dr. Massey holds four graduate degrees in both business and psychology, and she is a member of the American Psychological Association.