How Generational Differences Contribute to a Workplace – Maegan Moran

This week Maegan writes about the diversity of the Vermont Department of Corrections and how the different generations present all add something different to the environment and her experience.

Working with people from different generations is a great thing. There is not one person in that office that thinks alike, which is great because everyone has his or her own opinion and mindset about every offender or every situation every day. Our office is very diverse; we have people who are as young as mid-twenties and as old as early sixties.  It is interesting to look at the youngest of my co-workers and the oldest to see the differences between them. The more time you have in the department the more knowledgeable you are, and there are several people in the office who have been working with the department for a long time that act as a great resource. Not only are they a great resource, but it is also fun to listen to the stories they have collected over the years, and to learn from them because they have so much they can teach. On the other end are those people who are newer and they have their own contribution. The energy is higher, and they have their own new insights that they can contribute.

logoMy supervisor is just under twenty years older than me, and although we do have a generational difference because of the age gap, it doesn’t feel like there is a huge difference. Obviously he is more knowledgeable than me, he understands the system better, and he is very good at his job. However, there isn’t a difference in the use of technology; my supervisor is well versed in excel, power point, and basically any other processing system. While we are in the field he dictates our case notes using his iPhone and he has scanned the entire affidavit and conditions for each of the people on his caseload and has them on his phone for quick access.

The respect I have for my supervisor is immense. One of the aspects I respect most is the way in which he respects each of the people on our caseload. To him they aren’t just offenders who commit crimes and can’t follow the rules. He has a perspective that allows him to see them as people who make mistakes. They aren’t just criminals; they are human beings like the rest of us.  Often times the self-esteem is very low or absent for most people on supervision. My supervisor has a wonderful phrase that helps most people: “It isn’t the person we don’t like, it is the behaviors.” Most of the people who are under supervision have created habits of criminal and rule breaking behavior, which stem from criminal and rule breaking attitudes. At times it is hard to remember this when you have someone you are supervising that keeps breaking their conditions and fails to be responsible for their actions. It is important to always remember that their attitudes that cause them to commit criminal and rule breaking behavior have been practiced and used for years, sometimes decades, before they were placed on supervision. As with anything it takes time to change attitudes and behaviors that have been practiced every day for years.

I will leave you with a closing thought, a phrase my supervisor uses that, for me, is very insightful and accurate. It captures the idea that the perceptions and expectations of an individual’s attitudes and behaviors cannot be the same in every case. It also allows you to understand that for some people they will never be able to follow certain rules or change their attitudes, because there comes a time when individuals are who they are and nothing you do can change that.  “You can’t teach a fish to climb a tree.”

Be sure to check back next Wednesday afternoon to read more about Maegan’s internship experience!

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