Age Difference

Remove generational bias for richer results in the workplace

Each year, I select participants for a QP focus group I host at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement, and each year I choose people in part based on their age. My goal is to pull together a diverse group of participants who will represent different viewpoints. But now when I think about it, I realize my approach upholds certain stereotypes that exist and that I’m guilty of perpetuating. For instance, the notion that a 25-year-old likely reads the digital edition of QP and shuns paper copies, or that the 50-year-old clips out articles for colleagues and saves issues for future reference (I’m looking to get to the "how" and "why" behind how people use the articles and information).

Maybe my biased selection process actually has the opposite effect by bringing to light how similar we all are. In this case, it soon becomes clear that every focus group participant is seeking the same thing: valuable information and articles that will help them succeed and do their jobs better. What I also notice is how often the stereotypes are upended—the 50-year-old who reads exclusively on an iPad, or the 25-year-old who hates to interact with social media at work.

There is a quote by Maya Angelou: "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." I think this month’s cover story on generations in the workforce, "Clashing or Compatible?", reinforces this sentiment. In the article, a relative newbie and a veteran quality professional wrote essays on what generational differences—real and perceived—mean for them in their careers. Both agree it’s important not to pigeonhole others, and to be open to individuals’ unique contributions, even if they’re not at all what you expected.

Are you cut out to be a quality engineer? Don’t let age be a barrier if the requirements of this unique role seem like a perfect fit for you. Find out if a transition is right for you in "Natural Inclination."

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

Editor in Chief and Publisher

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