JASH’s NexGen Series Presents a Multi-Generational Discussion
Jodie Chiemi Ching
This past January, the Japan-America Society of Hawaii hosted a multi-generational discussion entitled “The Next Generation of Leadership: Embracing Change While Preserving Traditions.”
The event was sponsored by the Island Insurance Foundation and took place at the Entrepreneurs Sandbox — a collaborative space developed by the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation. “HTDC is a dynamic state agency responsible for diversifying Hawaii’s economy by developing a flourishing technology industry that provides quality, high-paying jobs for Hawaii residents.”
I am a Gen X-er born from silent generation parents. Sometimes we lack empathy for one another causing friction in our communication which, in turn, affects our relationship. For example, when they ask me to do something, I should just do it, right? But sometimes I dare to ask “Why?” … the silent generation doesn’t like that. They usually get upset, and I usually reply with an eye-roll or an exasperated sigh. I’m working on how to respond in a more “mature manner,” but I can’t help being the stereotypical sarcastic and skeptical Gen X-er.
I attended the JASH discussion in hopes of learning more about how each generation ticks. Hopefully, that will help me work more synergistically with my coworkers and lessen the amount of eye-roll I direct toward my parents.
Is empathy and understanding the key to collaboration among the generations? How do we begin to achieve that?
The panel selected to dig into this hot topic included young local community leaders: Christina Moon, marketing director and resident priest of Daihonzan Chozen-ji and Sara Lim, senior special assistant from the governor’s office — who both identify as millennials; and Toby Tamaye, president of AT Marketing and John Rankin, founder and president of Hapa Travel LLC — they identify as Generation X-ers.
JASH board director, president of Trees for Honolulu’s Future and boomer, Dan Dinell served as the moderator for the discussion.
Dinell started off with a graphic defining the generations:
・ Silent generation – ages 74-91 (born 1928-1945)
・ Boomers – ages 55-73 (born 1946-64)
・ Generation X – ages 39-54 (born 1965-1980)
・ Millennials – ages 23-38 (born 1981-1996)
・ Generation Z – ages 7-22 (born 1997-2012)
Dinell also pointed out that, according to Pew Research Center, more than half of our nation’s work force is comprised of millennials and the other half made up of Generation X. Boomers and the silent generation are mostly retired, with just a small percentage continuing to work.
So how should Generation X managers train millennial employees? Are millennials getting what they need from the older generations?
Moon said, “It depends. I have incredible mentors [who] are baby boomers.” However, she also knows there are those who stereotype and say that millennials are entitled.
Rankin said that board members of an organization should represent who the members are. Age, gender and ethnicity all matter, and he added, “Boards should have term limits.”
Tamaye, who grew up in Aiea and went to the University of Hawai‘i, emphasized that, “If you’re going to live in Hawai‘i, it’s about connections,” which can only be strengthened by understanding how each generation ticks.
Lim, who worked for several years in journalism in Los Angeles and New York, shares her experience of the challenges of working in Hawai‘i. “Relationships in Hawai‘i can go quickly, or you can get cut off if you don’t have a connection,” she said.
Moon said, “Millennials are worse off than their parents.” They have a different psychology because the definition of success has changed. And because of climate change, Moon also said, “Kids are questioning [whether] they should bring children into the world.”
“Happiness equals success,” said Rankin, adding that people will “work for a living [and] die for a cause.” Millennials need a purpose.
Tamaye challenged Moon and said, “One-third of [future] jobs have not even been created [yet],” meaning there are more opportunities for people to create the jobs they want. Therefore, millennials have a lot to be happy about. Today, nineteen-year-olds can even get paid to play computer games.
Then, Dinell threw out the next question, “You’re the dictator for the day, what would you do?”
Moon would make everyone meditate. “[I would] take the opportunity to show that people can go beyond their self-imposed limitations.”
Rankin would encourage “multi-generational collaboration and team work” so people can empathize with one another.
Lim pointed out that there needs to be open-hearted listening on both sides. Young people value wisdom from their elders. But when young people take some initiative, risks and responsibility, elders could be more encouraging.
Leaving the discussion, I felt encouraged — I saw my generation as “the bridge.” Tamaye pointed out that Gen X-ers lived the first half of their lives without smartphones and the second half with smartphones, indicating that we have a good connection to the generations before us and after us.
Maybe my generation can help the silent generation and the boomers share their wisdom with millennials; and we can help the millennials use that wisdom to find their purpose and happiness. Working toward empathizing with other generations might even help me curb down my eye-rolls.