Managing the Wired Generation

I wrote this in response to my friend Mark Schaefer. He writes a pithy and practical marketing blogg which fouces on the us eof social media and has a large international following. In Mark’s last article, he posted a provocative question: Is social media re-wiring a generation?

The answer of course, is yes. Not only is it re-wiring the current generation of young adults, it is re-wiring the rest of us as well.

Technology has always done so. Although we’re accustomed to them now, the telephone, television, and automobile each created radical changes in society. Mark wrote of a time when our primary neural development came through “intense socialization with family members and friends, physical activity and interacting with nature in some way,” yet all of these technologies also eroded the same patterns of socialization, and were lamented (for good reason) by the “older generation” of their times.

Implications for management

Some believe our emerging wired culture is leading to a global increase in ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and I tend to agree. I particularly worry about the impact of increased ADD on leadership, as the tendency to jump from one initiative to another without ever getting the preceding implementation right is already a plague in modern organizations.

Again, these tendencies didn’t start with the latest wave of innovation. But the effects do seem to be sinking deeper. In my work with young engineers I find they are consistently bored, have a low tolerance for authority figures (like many adults but with even less perspective they quickly conclude that the problem is that “the boss is an idiot”), will simply “drop out of the game” without weighing the long term consequences, and will try to communicate electronically especially if there is any discomfort or conflict involved.

The “internal” solution

The key however lies not so much in analyzing these youngsters, but rather in analyzing our own reactions to them. Impatience doesn’t help. These young employees need hands-on and accessible management. They need mentoring and support on how to handle conflict face-to-face. They need to know how what they are doing fits into the big picture, and they need to be engaged in work that is as vital and important to the organization as possible.

The boss who has young hires and expects them to function independently is fooling him or herself (and giving in to their own ADD tendencies). These people need mentoring in how to become adults, just as the generation preceding them needed mentoring (that would be us), and even more so.


Face it, many adults today try to handle conflicts with co-workers by e-mailing the person in the next cubicle over, or by avoiding them altogether. And many adults are very uncomfortable being an authority figure or dealing with authority figures. For most, no matter how good the relationship has been, overcoming the fear of delivering bad news to the boss is a life-long struggle. Working on your own EQ when it comes to authority relationships is one of the best gifts you can give to the next generation.

Finally, there are always benefits from new technologies. My eldest son as a young teen went through a period where he very rarely opened up (nothing new there, right?) until he and I started texting each other. Then there was a flood of communication, which opened the door for even better “in person” communication.

So the key is not to try to kill the new technology, and the behavioral impact. That is a fool’s errand. They key is to continue to do what humans must do, and often don’t do enough of at work, which is to relate in person to the people that are important to them.

About crosbyod

Crosby & Associates OD is a catalyst for high performance & morale. Our methods are a unique blend grounded in research and decades of experience. In the spirit of Kurt Lewin, the founder of OD, as we partner with you in the present we transfer our methods to you so you are independent in the future. Learn more at
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2 Responses to Managing the Wired Generation

  1. Pawanjit says:

    Hey Gil

    I have started reading your blogs and I could associate with this subject immediately. You have captured the essence and the finer points in the challenges faced by the old school of thought with the younger generation.

    I just loved this article and am recommending this to other colleagues of mine too.

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