Episode 88 – Building a Cross-Generational Workplace

Episode #88
Original Air Date: 09.02.2019

47 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Crystal Kadakia

What are some of the challenges that project managers face leading a cross-generational team? How can we bridge the gap between productivity - reaching those project deadlines and goals - and building relationships that keep team members fulfilled at work? Listen in for a conversation about redefining what culture looks like in the digital age, and advice on navigating multiple points of view to get the best out of your team.

Crystal Kadakia is an organization development consultant, a two-time TEDx speaker, a Power 30 Under 30 award recipient, and the bestselling author of “The Millennial Myth.” Crystal has a bachelor's in Chemical Engineering and a master's in Organization Development. Part of her work has been to change the story around millennials and Gen Z, while driving the connection between Millennial behavior to the design of engaging, productive modern workplaces. Her consulting clients have included General Mills, Southern Company, Monster.com, and Wells Fargo. Crystal is the founder of Kadakia Consulting.

The team talks about how to deliver constructive feedback and performance reviews, capturing creativity instead of trying to control it, the value of uninterrupted time, and how to manage digital distractions in meetings as you lead teams to towards their goals.

Learn More About Crystal's InSite Course "Managing Millenials"

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“...the new intelligence is self-awareness. We can talk about book smarts. We can talk about street smarts. But where are you on the journey of knowing your triggers and knowing what causes you to react and how are you shaping your relationships because of that?”

- Crystal Kadakia

“For millennials and Gen Z, we shaped our world view, our perspective on work, life, what we want, what we expect, from growing up with digital day one.”

- Crystal Kadakia

“...I would really ask you as a manager, is the problem really that devices are distracting? Or that the person doesn’t have a clear purpose of being in the room?”

- Crystal Kadakia

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The podcast for project managers by project managers. Advice on leading a multigenerational team to create productive, modern, cross-generational workplaces, and redefining what culture looks like in the digital age. Bridge the gap between productivity and building relationships that keep team members fulfilled at work.

Table of Contents

01:51 … Meet Crystal
04:48 … Defining Generational Groups
07:01 … Digital Coma vs Digitally Powered
09:26 … Mutigenerational Workplace Challenges
12:52 … Generational Preconceived Notions
16:03 … YOLO and FOMO
18:46 … Maximizing Potential of Project Team Members
23:19 … Individual Growth and Development in the Digital Age
26:05 … Capturing Creativity in a Multigenerational Workplace
29:18 … Value of Uninterrupted Time
31:15 … Current Projects
34:26 … Meetings and Distractions in the Digital Age
36:31 … Generational Responses to Feedback
41:38 … Constructive Feedback as a Teaching Moment
45:10 … Contact Crystal
46:02 … Closing

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  …the new intelligence is self-awareness.  We can talk about book smarts.  We can talk about street smarts.  But where are you on the journey of knowing your triggers and knowing what causes you to react and how are you shaping your relationships because of that?

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  This is our effort to get to the heart of what professional project managers are thinking about, concerned about, and sometimes struggling about.  It’s a challenging field.  It’s a broad field, one that has a tendency to stretch even the most seasoned professionals.  And so we talk with a variety of guests about how they’ve managed to deal with the challenges they’ve faced.  I’m your host, Nick Walker, and I’m joined by the one who has actually lived out some of those challenges, Bill Yates.  And Bill, today we’re going to talk about the challenge of intergenerational project teams.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  And I can’t wait to get into this with Crystal.  She has such a perspective on a challenge I think all leaders, especially project managers, face, which is we’ve got things we have to get done.  We have project deadlines and goals.  We have people doing the work.  How do we make those people happy?  How do we keep them fulfilled at work?

NICK WALKER:  Well, before we introduce our guest, I’m going to do a little confession here; okay?  I’m going to roughly give my age away.


NICK WALKER:  I am what most people would call a “baby boomer.”


NICK WALKER:  My parents were in what’s called the “silent generation.”  People slightly younger than me are Gen X.  And my kids are Generation Y, also known as “millennials.”  If you were born between 1980 and 1995, you are a member of that generation.  Anyone born after that is Gen Z.  And our guest is all about helping us understand the generations and engaging effectively with them.

Meet Crystal

Crystal Kadakia is an organization development consultant, a two-time TEDx speaker, a Power 30 Under 30 award recipient, and the bestselling author of “The Millennial Myth.”  Her consulting clients have included General Mills, Southern Company, Monster.com, and Wells Fargo.  Crystal, thank you for joining us here on Manage This.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Great to be here.

NICK WALKER:  I’d like to get into some of those myths about millennials in a moment.  But first, let’s just talk about your motivation behind getting into this line of work.  What was that?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So my line of work.  First of all, there’s the whole question of what is it that I actually do?  Which I think is a really important question because we live in a really ambiguous time.  There is a lot of creative stuff going on, a lot of strategy stuff going on, and it’s really about what are we all doing to move forward in this really ambiguous time.

So the line of work I’m in, it’s all about helping companies change themselves.  So what I’m doing is I’m really helping them look at specific future work trends, things like what are we doing in diversity inclusion?  What are we doing in learning?  What are we doing across building relationships? And what are we doing for productivity?  And really helping them redefine that, rediscover that for themselves of what that culture looks like in the digital age.  Because of course there’s a lot that’s gotten them here to this point.  But what’s going to get them there?

So as an organization development consultant, that’s a lot of what I’m doing is I’m speaking to create in-the-moment transformations.  I’m doing training, really helping to bring people along.  And then doing that consulting piece of really facilitating and guiding those conversations and that strategy of how are we moving forward.

BILL YATES:  This is exactly what I would expect of a chemical engineer.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Exactly, exactly.  How did I get into all of this; right?


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  I have a really interesting background.  And I think it’s that multifacetedness that really, you know, brings me a very interesting perspective on workplace culture.  So yes,  I studied as a chemical engineer.  I now have a master’s in organization development.  I’m an Asian female millennial.  My parents are from India.  I grew up in Austin, Texas.  So you can imagine the clashes there with Hindus.  We don’t eat cows.  And in Texas we’re all about the steak; right?  So very interesting kind of combinations.

And in my corporate career I went from engineering to being a training manager.  So I eventually realized that, wow, we’ve got way more interesting problems to solve than what’s going on on the manufacturing line.  So what’s going on with us as people.  That really started driving me towards this line of work and really wanting to apply that logic, that expertise, that rigor to people problems, which are, again, very ambiguous and really fun to unravel and figure out what’s the core drivers behind this, and how do we move forward from there?

Defining Generational Groups

NICK WALKER:  So let’s talk about what makes millennials and Gen Z different from the generations that come before them.

BILL YATES:  And define it for us, too, because I know there’s even some confusion as to do I fit in that millennial group?

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.  Good idea.

BILL YATES:  Or am I Gen Z?  Or what am I?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So you’ve got the boomers, the Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Z, and then you have the generation before boomers, the silent generation.  They go by a various number of names.  When you think about millennials and Gen Z, you’re thinking about millennials are born from 1980 to 1995. Some people will push that to 2000, it really depends on which source you’re looking at.  For me, I use 1995 as the cutoff date because after that point, every single person born had access to the Internet, they had PCs.  So PCs were ubiquitous by that point, in every household.  And in Third World countries, it really almost skipped the personal computer stage and went straight to mobile phones.

NICK WALKER:  Interesting.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So it’s very interesting when you look at that.  To me, that’s a huge event.  So when you talk about what makes millennials and Gen Z different from previous generations, it’s really that they are growing up with digital from day one, and for millennials, they remember a bit of life without digital.  But they were in their teens when digital really starting hitting them.  So if you think about it, if you’re from another generation, you have a whole other world context that was developed from your values, your beliefs, your life experiences, that you then filtered digital technology through.



CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Whereas for millennials and Gen Z, we shaped our world view, our perspective on work, life, what we want, what we expect, from growing up with digital day one.  So that’s really the key difference, you can talk about other events, as well.  There’s been big changes in diversity, for example, from previous generations to millennials and Gen Z. Millennials might be surprised to find out 40 percent of millennials are not Caucasian, so that’s a big shift.  When you think about boomers, I believe it was around 75 percent Caucasian, 25 percent not Caucasian.  So we’re seeing big shifts.  And with Gen Z, it’s even further in terms of the diversity in the generation.

Digital Coma vs Digitally Powered

BILL YATES:  One of the things that you noted, I can’t recall if I read it or if I heard you say it in one of your TED talks.  But you talked about looking at young professionals and identifying a bit of a crossroads with this new digital reality.  And you said, “Some I see are in a digital coma, and then some are digitally powered.”  Talk about that.  How did you kind of come across that, and then how did you distinguish those two camps?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So this idea of digital coma and digital powered is something that is really at the core of my passion of what I’m doing because, you know, any time something new comes along in the world, it’s like we’re a pendulum.  We go from “I don’t want this at all” to “I’m going to dive deep into this and adopt it all the time.  Can’t live without it.”  Right?  So it’s very, you know, we kind of have a very polar effect.  Often there’s people who are very afraid, and then there’s people who dive all the way in.  And eventually we come to a balance.  We’re never going to get quite back to the world before Internet.  But we’re not going to – there’s too many people who are afraid, so we’re not going to end up in that camp of I’m fully plugged into the world.  I’m living in the matrix.  Okay?


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So when I talk about digital coma and digital powered, millennials are such an interesting generation because, again, they have a little bit of the context before digital, and then some of it after.  So you get to see that polar opposite.  There are some people who still just didn’t really quite get into digital that much, and then there’s people who are video gaming for 10 hours a day and just, you know, lost drive, lost motivation to do anything else.  And when you look at Gen Z, you start to see the balance.  Now there’s people who are still gaming eight hours, but they’re like, well, I’m making money from this; or I’m on Twitch, and other people are watching me play, and I’m getting social engagement through this.  It’s not just that I’m addicted to gaming.  I’m getting so much more out of this than you know.

And so when I study this idea of digital coma/digital powered, it’s really a clue for how do we get to the balance.  Because when you see the extremes, when you see the boundaries of the sandbox, that’s when you start to understand, well, how do all of us, regardless of generation, make conscious choices with our relationship to digital technology?  And that’s what I’m seeing with Gen Z is more and more we’ve got less of the digital coma or just fully digitally powered.  It’s really this balance between.

Multigenerational Workplace Challenges

NICK WALKER:  We have workplaces that are multigenerational.  I mean, we have at least three generations in this room right now.  What are some of the challenges that come with that multigenerational workplace?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  That we all think our point of view is right.


BILL YATES:  Well, it is.  I mean, it is.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  That is the number one challenge that’s working in a cross-generational workplace is we all think our point of view is right.  And instead of being inviting to understanding someone else’s context, all we do is try to defend our point of view.  Well, this is the way we should be doing things.  This is the right way.

Well, one of the cool things about growing up both with a Western and an Eastern background is that those philosophies constantly clash, like inside of me in my head.  Right?  And so again, being that multifaceted person – and honestly I feel blessed to be that.  I talk a lot with my husband about this because he’s Caucasian, American, Floridian.  Like, you know, very – there’s a certain group there.  And he’s like, you know, I just feel like I’m behind because I can’t compare these different philosophies or ways of life as easily as you can.

NICK WALKER:  You are living this battle.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  I’m living this battle.  And it’s cool.  You know, it can be difficult.  But it’s so rewarding.  So when I think about the challenge for people, it’s how do you invite that challenge into your own life of recognizing that, hey, my way’s not the only way.  And I’m also living this clash if I choose to.  And if I live in this clash, then there’s these amazing rewards you get out of being able to have real relationships that are productive, engaging, not as frustrating, because you’re actually able to communicate, period.

I think that’s really it.  You’re actually able to communicate, rather than just communicating your point of view, you’re communicating our point of view.  So you’re really bringing together the different ways in which we view the world, or projects, you know, if we’re talking about project management, or we’re talking about leadership development, or we’re talking about giving feedback. You’re now living multiple points of view, and then that’s going to make you more effective.

BILL YATES:  What I find, Crystal, is for those project managers that are really good at creating that environment of trust, they have to start within first; right?  It’s like I have to trust myself, I have to be comfortable with who I am, I have to be transparent, and I have to be authentic to my team, and then I invite them to be the same with me.  You know, so there’s kind of a building of respect and authenticity on the team.


BILL YATES:  Let’s all bring our different perspectives and how we’re wired, what we prefer, how we prefer to work, together and then figure out how we can all make it work to reach a project goal, for instance.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  So let’s be honest, it’s called “project management”, right?  Not “project dictatorship.”


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Okay.  So if it was called “project dictatorship,” it would be your way is the high way, just enroll everyone in your way, your job is done.  But it’s called being a project manager, and in some organizations a project leader, because of course there’s differences between managing and leading, as well, right?  And maybe you give yourself the title of project leader when you start to really take ownership of handling these multiple point of views, really navigating them to create the best out of your team.  Hey, give yourself that title because that’s the work you’re doing is you’re really leading. So you’re not just managing against budget, time, resources, just the end deliverables.  You’re really looking at what does it mean to lead this team towards our goals.

Generational Preconceived Notions

NICK WALKER:  It seems one of the biggest challenges then would be the preconceived notions that people bring to the table, you know, millennials and Gen Z, what their preconceived notions are about their baby boomer boss. And then vice versa, you know, the baby boomer boss who hires them, you know, may have these preconceived notions.  How do you work within that challenge?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So the first thing to work with this challenge of preconceived notions is to bring people’s awareness to how much they’ve bought into the social media hype around this generational topic.  So, you know, again, to be honest, generations have been coming in and out of the workplace for generations.  This is not a new challenge.

BILL YATES:  Right.  This is nothing new, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Complaining about the youngest generation, not a new thing.  There’s this often-said quote from Socrates in 400 B.C. complaining about the kids today; right?

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So this is not new, you don’t have license as you’re the only person who’s ever found this younger generation full of it; okay?  So to realize what is new is that we’ve never had social media.  We’ve never had so many different sources, so many different ways and places and volume that we can complain.  And so what happened, when I started talking about this eight years ago, what happened with social media is we built up this big plethora of our natural human tendency to complain about change.  And in this case the change was these young people are coming in.  So we started all these complaints, and next thing you know, on Google, if you do a search for “millennials are lazy and entitled,” or just even the phrase “lazy and entitled,” you come up with, like, 16 million results.  I do this search regularly.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So now you’re fighting – the self-awareness piece for you is knowing that you’re fighting mentally to not buy into 16 million results about millennials are lazy and entitled.  And what’s hilarious to me is the new challenge is, when managers are recruiting Gen Zers, they’re finding that Gen Z, those folks who are 24 and below, they’ve bought into the same negative rhetoric.  So they’ll come in, and they’ll say, “Oh, you know, you don’t have to worry about me, by the way, I’m not like those millennials.”

BILL YATES:  Wow, okay, yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, my goodness.  That’s funny.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So talking about how do you navigate these preconceived notions, the first thing we can all do is just to realize that this is hype, and set it to the side.  Set it to the side.  Like you would do with any other person who seems like they’re on a different planet from you, keep an open mind and judge it based on your lived experience of interacting with that person.  And a lot of times what I’ll see is there will be a millennial in the room, and managers or leaders will be complaining, “Well, you know, I think the only reason why we’re having these problems is because of the millennials.”

NICK WALKER:  Oh, boy.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And then there’ll be the little millennial in the poor corner be like, “Well, I’m a millennial.  I don’t want to admit it, but I’m a millennial.”

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And they’ll say, “Oh, but you know we’re not talking about you; right?”



CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Lived experience.  Go by your lived experience of talent, always.  You know, it doesn’t matter what gender, ethnicity.  Go by your lived experience. 

YOLO and Maximizing Potential

BILL YATES:  One of the things that you’ve spoken about and written about related to millennials is the concept of YOLO.  You want to just lay that out for us?


BILL YATES:  It’s a good perspective to have, I think, you know, for those who are managing and trying to bring team members together.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  So if you think about any of our complaints about millennials and Gen Z – lazy, entitled, disloyal, so on – I like to bring it back to this idea of how we grew up.  If you imagine growing up before the Internet, how much knowledge or ideas about the different options might you have had for how to live?  Probably not that many; right?  You might have heard from your teacher, these are your career options.  Might have heard from your parents, your neighbors and so on.  So when you think about now growing up in the digital age, what you see is all of the options of all of the possible things you could be doing, could be being, and it’s infinite.  Right?  You could be on a beach, making money, according to the Internet, which is, you know, frankly, not that untrue.  You really could.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Right?  You could be having the senior executive job at 24 because you see somebody doing that online, and you see that story.  So imagine if you’ve had all of this data available to you from day one.  What that creates is this philosophy, this expectation.  And I just call it YOLO because, popular word.  If you don’t know what YOLO stands for, it means You Only Live Once.  And the corollary to that is FOMO, Fear of Missing Out.

So I see this very much as, you know, humans have always been driven by pain and pleasure.  So the pleasure side of what drives us when we have so much data is YOLO.  You only live once.  Hey, I only live once, so why would I want to work for you?  I only live once, so how am I going to make the most of my every day?  And I’m constantly going to seek that out.  The pain is, oh, no.  I only live once, so what if I miss out?  And then you get this fear of missing out effect.

So I think, you know, when I think about things like people being lazy or people being entitled, it’s not really so much of not wanting to do the work, or just wanting to go through things too quickly.  It’s that they’re always looking for maximizing their potential because you know it’s possible.  You know it’s possible to move at a fast rate, and you have these different options available to you, and now you’re just trying to navigate this new set of options for yourself every day.  So I often talk about, rather than assuming these folks are lazy or wanting to just not put in the time, it’s really that they’re looking to maximize their potential.  And it’s not clear how to do that in organizations today.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, right.  That…

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  That’s not often explained.

Maximizing Potential of Project Team Members

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that, I think, is such a great point to hang out in for a bit because, to me, when I’m thinking about that, this is a challenge for, as you said, project leaders, project managers, leaders of people.  How do I bring their unique skill set and experience into the role that I have defined?  You know, I’ve got this position description that I’ve got to fill, whether it’s operations or a project.  I’m a project manager, and I have a position to fill.  But I’ve got this person who’s got all this creativity and all this other experience.  Yes, they can do that piece, but what if they want more; you know?  There is, there’s YOLO.  You know, so how do we balance that?

So thinking one of the things I look forward to talking with you about is ideas for those leaders who are trying to go, okay, how do I have fulfilling work for people in an environment that’s authentic, and we trust each other, but also give them enough freedom on other things so that they feel fully invested, and they’re exactly – they’re actually excited about coming to work.  You know?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  So, you know, and from a project manager standpoint, or a leader standpoint, I imagine a few of the challenges is, one, getting people to do routine work.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Making sure that they stay for the lifetime of a project…

BILL YATES:  Right, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  …or an initiative.  Making sure you can communicate with them because you know where and when they work.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So I think part of this, the one thing I would start off with is to not make assumptions that they know the reasons why you work the way you work.  So if you’re a project manager, and you have a certain work style or communication style or a work structure, like you show up at work at this time, leave at this time, you communicate through these methods, you believe people do the work for a certain reason.  For example, a paycheck.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Well, so you’re getting paid for this, that’s why you do it. But remember that you are coming at it from your point of view of where you’ve grown up and what your values are.  And so the other people coming in may not know why, like why does that work structure work? Why does that communication structure work?  Because they grow up in a world of greater options to accomplish that same task. There are so many ways to communicate now, it’s not just phone or face to face, you can communicate through all these other ways.  So tell me, what’s the most meaningful way to communicate for certain situations?


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Okay, so if we are reaching – a critical incident happens that’s going to delay this, do you email?  Do you come find the person? Or do you text them?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, is Slack okay?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Is Slack okay?

BILL YATES:  So are you going to keep Slack or IM up all day?  You know, how do we – right, mm-hmm.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Right, so, you know, if it was me, and something urgent came up, I would say text me.  But somebody else might say, no, you’d better walk over and come find me ASAP, right?

BILL YATES:  Right, so it’s up to that leader to know, for each individual on my team, what preferred communication style do they have.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Exactly, so communication’s a big part of it. I think when you think about putting in the time in routine tasks versus fulfilling tasks, understanding the why behind, hey, what are you going to get out of this routine task other than, oh, no, you’ve just got to put in the time? Well, putting in the time’s not maximizing that person’s potential, so guess what?  In this day and age, things are moving so quickly, if you have employees, if you have team members who are just putting in the time, you should be more worried about them.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Because you’re getting – you have complacency. But if you’ve got someone who’s trying to maximize their potential, don’t defuse it, right?  Try to figure out how you can find other uses for their strengths, or have them partner with you on it.  So tell them, hey, here’s the big scope of this project, if you’ve got other strengths that can contribute to this, I’m open to it.  You know, I’m not going to do the work to figure out where you fit into the scope, but I’ll tell you the scope.

So, you know, a lot of times managers think they need to have all the answers, and they don’t. If a person’s motivated enough, if they want to bring their whole self to work and all of these newfangled concepts we’re hearing about, then we’ll put some of the accountability on them to do it.  But it’s your job to transparently share, here is the scope of the project. So here’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, hey, if we don’t do these routine tasks, this is what’s at risk.  And if you don’t explain that big transparent picture, you’re living back in the industrial age where everything was just on a need-to-know basis.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, right.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Okay, we’re in the digital age, so everything is transparent online.  If you’re not providing that transparency today, it doesn’t matter how things used to be because we don’t live in that world. So people expect to know the big picture, and if they don’t know it, you don’t trust them.  And why would they want to work for you if you don’t trust them?

Individual Growth and Development in the Digital Age

BILL YATES:  Crystal, so there are companies that have set aside time, famously Google, they had a policy where 20 percent of the time was free.


BILL YATES:  You could then work on a project at work that you thought could be important to the company.  Maybe it would be, maybe it wouldn’t, but it wasn’t your primary job. It was, hey, so I think we’ve got a possibility to make a better email system.  So Gmail came about as a result, through time, now for about a decade, they ran with that policy.  And then Google around, I don’t know, 2013, ‘14 or so, started to step away from that. So there are some lessons in that, as well, we can get into that separately.

But just thinking about other companies, and for those project managers who are leading people who they have interests, they have talents that are beyond just that project, so helping them look, okay, is there anything extra you can do on my project.  But then even broader, have you seen some companies set up similar policies or approaches where they’re able to get those folks who really have an interest in doing things for the company, but they’ve got other stuff they’re interested in, too. So how do they set that up and embrace that?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  So an example of kind of free time or growth and development time, there is a company out in the U.K. actually that does one training day a month, or one free day a month, and it’s not mandatory.  I think that’s the important part is that it’s not mandatory, so it’s up to the individual.  But they want to know that you are interested in developing yourself, and what they found initially was that no one was using these days. This was an ad agency, and they have a really interesting talent development philosophy, actually.  They only have 60 top seats or 60 hot seats, that is the number of people they’re going to have in their company, period. So they’re not trying to grow by adding more people, they’re always trying to grow by unlocking more potential, more capability…

BILL YATES:  Oh, wow.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  …more innovation in those 60 seats.  It was “precious seats,” so everybody knows that they are incredibly valuable in that organization.  So this one training day a month is something that they started.  They found out not that many people were using it until they created a way for people to share back.  So that was really an interesting learning insight.  You can do your own learning, but people wanted a way to connect that back to their community and bring it back.  So they started having kind of forums where you can now share back what you learned on this day of learning. And so I think that that’s a really cool little insight to keep in mind.

BILL YATES:  That, Crystal, that is very interesting because one of the natural side effects that happens when you have talented people working with you, but they’ve got all these other ideas, and they can’t see how it’s going to apply at work, so they start a side hustle, right? The whole side hustle concept.  And, I mean, so it doesn’t matter what generation, doesn’t matter what your age or your background is, that’s just a part of life. I have three friends that are gray-haired buddies that have been in corporate gigs for quite a while, and they’re on their third graphic novel.  So that’s the side hustle that the three of them have.


Capturing Creativity

BILL YATES:  And then, you know, it provides all kind of energy and excitement for them.  So then for project managers, again, or for leaders of people, how do they take that reality of, okay, everybody, to some degree, everybody has an idea for a side hustle. How then do I get that creativity and that energy invested back into my project or my company?  So what are some other ways we can do that?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So I think the first thing that came to mind, my initial reaction to how to really capture that creativity is don’t try to control it.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  You know, don’t be intentional about having those side gigs influence the core work, also make sure that, you know, I think a lot – what I notice is a lot of leaders care about the fact that someone has a side hustle.  Why do you care?  If they’re still delivering on their core work, why do you care?

BILL YATES:  Absolutely, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA: Because what’s going to happen just naturally is, as that person works on that side hustle, if they’ve got the space to strategically think about their job, they’re going to automatically bring in stuff from out there.  We naturally do that.

BILL YATES:  I agree.  Right.  You learn things. So you find little breakthroughs, little life facts that work over on your side hustle that now you’re going to do it on the job.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And now, guess what?  So without you doing anything as a manager, that person has had new fuel, new life come back into them to bring that back to the job, the core, that is paying them, that is so on and so forth.  And so if they’re making money even through their side hustle, who cares?  It’s creating new life for them.  And you’re getting the benefit of that new life.  You might not be getting the profits, but you’re getting benefits of that new life and new energy.  And wouldn’t you rather have that than someone who’s been a drone at your other job for 40 years, right?


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  You know, and I love that you’re bringing up that this is not a generational thing, so lot of people do this on the side, and it helps them perform back at work.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Yeah, it makes it more rewarding, for sure, and it’s also interesting.  So I brought up Google’s policy with the 20 percent, and I think that’s an interesting lesson.  The reason they stepped away from it after a decade or so was primarily because they had two systems at odds. The managers had incentives and compensation based on the productivity of their team members, so the team members were given 20 percent of their time where they could go explore other projects.  So now a manager’s looking and going, I’m in a little conflict here because I get graded based on productivity, and now my team’s only 80 percent productive at best.

So they started to hedge on that.  As a company they started to do more of a top-down approach, rather than grassroots, on let’s direct the special projects.  So, hey, you’ve got extra time, and you have a passion for this, so here’s something that may be a good fit.  Again, it takes a lot of thought and a lot of planning on the part of leaders to think about, okay, so how do we tap into that?  Everybody has a side gig, so what kind of – why, and what’s the passion behind it?  How can we connect that?

Value of Uninterrupted Time

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  I think something that is really relevant to me right now is, as I think about where we’re moving in the future, so I see a sickness or an illness in our organizations where we are stuck in a doing, doing, doing mode.  You know, people have so many emails coming in, they have so many meetings they go to, and so many routine tasks, that the only time they have to think strategically or think creatively or to be is outside of work. And so I think that’s a really big problem.

I love what Microsoft’s doing with their – so they have a product called MyAnalytics, they call it sort of their Fitbit for work.  And it’s just using AI to help people notice how much time they’re spending in meetings versus being able to have focus time, and they actually track, you know, are you clicking over to your inbox during focus windows?  And they’ll just send you a nudge, like, hey, did you know last week you only had one hour of uninterrupted time?  Do you want to do something about that?

So I think that, you know, as a manager or a leader, when you’re thinking about how are you influencing your team, how are you shaping the culture of your team, think about how often you’re allowing people to spend immersive time on their work tasks.  You know, uninterrupted time, so if you work in an open office space, do you encourage people to find their own quiet space somewhere in that office or outdoors where they just focus, take their laptop outside and just focus on a particular priority, turn everything off.  Do you encourage that?  And I think, if you encourage that, we’re going to start to see a better balance, not just where someone has to shove this to outside my work, but really inside their work, how can they bring some of those innovative, creative energies back to the doing, doing, doing mode.

Current Projects

NICK WALKER:  I’m curious about kind of where you are right now.  So you’ve worked with a variety of clients, can you talk a little bit about some of the projects you’re involved in right now, some of the ones that are really interesting?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah, absolutely, so a few of the things that really come to mind, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time on the “demystifying millennials” arena.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And where this is all moving for me in the last two years has been more about what are these illnesses I see in organizations because of digital technology. Again, so thinking about that digital coma, how can we bias ourselves toward digitally powered?  How can we get towards that balance?  So I’m thinking about things like what are we doing to help people with focus, with attention, with connection?  So we now have the opportunity to communicate across so many different methods, across so many different relationships.  Well, how are we actually managing that effectively?  So really looking at some of these things in terms of digital habits and then I’m also doing a lot of work around inclusion and learning.

So when I think about two of the key things in the future of work that’s going to keep on maximizing human potential, it’s how are we including diversity, diverse thought? And how are we learning?  How are we creating a learning culture?  Also you know, we talk a lot about machine learning nowadays, well, what about human learning?  Are we still going to be stuck in the classroom?  Or are we going to be figuring out ways for all of us to continue to grow every day where we are, when we are?

So a lot of the work I’ve been doing is really creating frameworks and theories and models for these different areas of inclusion learning and digital habits, and then really helping to assess organizational culture, or team culture.  Where’s your team doing with digital habits?  Let me be a mirror to you of how your team is doing in these digital habits, and then how can we help move your team forward into a more productive, engaging environment?

NICK WALKER:  So are you encouraged by what you’ve seen?  Are we getting there?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So I think we’re finally asking the right questions.  And I think that is almost, I would say, 40 to 50 percent of the battle is getting people to move from complaining about the frustrations with digital, or the frustrations with new talent to then asking the question of, wow, well, it’s here.  What do we want to do about this?  So getting the investment into really figuring out what to do, rather than hold on to where we’ve been, that’s where I’m seeing we are now.

And so I’m very encouraged by that because it’s been eight years for me in this field, and it’s taken a good six of those eight years just to get people to start asking that question and really, really seriously considering the future of work, rather than thinking of it as the future 50 years out, thinking of it as, oh, whoa, we need to evolve now because otherwise we’re going to lose some of the gems from the past because the new people aren’t going to know any of those gems because we haven’t told them, and we’re not going to be set up for success in the future because we’re too stuck with how we’ve done things.  So again, what’s the right balance there?  So very encouraging to see people now in that space of exploring this question.

Meetings and Distractions in the Digital Age

BILL YATES:  Crystal, some of the conversation we’re having about workspace is really challenging me.  So I’m thinking of Ed Catmull in “Creativity, Inc.,” just a quick story he shared about a conference room and how their meetings had gotten stagnant and fallen into an unhealthy pattern just because of the setup of the conference room.  And I’m thinking of, okay, what about teams that I lead?  And how attached are they to their devices?  So if we say, as a team, we’re going to have a team guideline, so whenever we meet we’re going to put all our cell phones in a – we’re going to put them in the box when we come in.  Everybody put them over here in timeout so we’re not distracted by them, and laptops down.  We need to talk and meet.

You know, some people may be fine with that, others may go no, you know, that’s insane, so this is my right arm, you know.  I’ve got to – I always have my phone up.  I’ve got all these apps running. And I’ve got constant communication.  As a matter of fact, the customer, that’s how they’re going to reach me.  So if we have an emergency during the meeting, that’s how they’re going to reach me, and I’m sure that would be my first priority.  You’re challenging me to rethink some of the things that we think about, some of the assumptions we make.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah, and so when it comes to meetings and distractions, I would really ask you as a manager, is the problem really that devices are distracting?  Or that the person doesn’t have a clear purpose of being in the room?

BILL YATES:  Oh, that’s a great question, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And so I would really – and again, this is this being a mirror, holding up a mirror.  If I was observing this team meeting, if someone is there just for information-only purposes, then I would be curious, is there another way to get the information to them.

BILL YATES:  A better way, absolutely.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  If someone’s in the room because they need to contribute something, well, then they’re automatically going to be paying more attention than the person who’s only there for information.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  So really assessing, is this about distraction? Remember, we have to live with digital technology.  It’s here, but it’s a tool, it’s up to us how we choose to use it.  So if the tool’s not really the issue, what’s really the issue?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, right.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And so the issue’s more around purpose of being there.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s good, and so to your point earlier, it’s a two-way conversation, it’s on both parties, it’s really good.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  It’s on both parties.

Generational Responses to Feedback

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, yeah, so it’s possible that people from different generations are going to respond in different ways, especially when it comes to feedback, performance reviews.  Is there a big difference in the generations and how they respond to that?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah, so I would say when it comes to feedback it’s more of a difference in, again, the purpose of feedback.  So when you think about digital age thinking and the digital age mindset, we grew up in times where things were changing so fast, and what we saw is our parents being laid off with zero warning, often.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Right?  We went through this global recession, so on, so forth. So when you think about those two experiences, of innovations happening really quickly, people being laid off with no warning, you very quickly come to the conclusion that once a year annual performance reviews aren’t going to cut it.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  You’re not going to know what to learn and what to keep on growing in order to keep up with the pace of innovation, and you sure as heck don’t want to be caught, you know, oh, you got laid off, you don’t know why. So you want to have a chance to improve, well, in the industrial age, again, it comes from this big belief that, oh, I will be at this company for a long time.  They are going to take care of me.

And so the thing is, it’s interesting, now all generations don’t buy into that, I mean, we’ve all experienced this pace of change.  We’ve all experienced these layoffs.  So there’s a little erosion of trust and faith in companies to take care of you and that you will be able to be there for a long time.  But that core belief or value system, it’s hard to change that, right?  That’s deeper than that.  On a surface level you know, but on a deep level you don’t, and in those times, having feedback, it’s like no news is good news; right?  If someone’s giving you feedback, it’s because you messed up real big.

BILL YATES:  It’s always negative.  Yeah, that’s a shame.  That’s so bad, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA: So it’s a very different – and that comes, you know, I don’t want to unpack that, but that comes – every person, you know, you can think about that on your own, why you might feel like no news is good news, where that might have come for you.  But for younger people, we’re like, no news is good news? What are you talking about? So if you get no news, you’re getting outdated, and I don’t want to become obsolete.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  And again, I’m trying to maximize my potential.  So a lot of times managers get frustrated because young people seem to be asking for feedback, and they tend to – managers might think of that as looking for praise.  Oh, this is the trophy generation.  They got an award just for showing up.  That’s what they’re asking for.  That is not what they’re asking for. They’re asking for something meaningful to make sure they’re either on track, or really, really they want to know, is there anything I could be doing better, because I want to be doing better?  And again, don’t defuse that motivation when you’ve got it.  And the third thing I would say is decouple that from performance reviews.

BILL YATES:  Yes, yes, yes.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Feedback and performance management don’t have to be the same thing.  You know, so you don’t want, at the end of this, you don’t want someone who’s been asking for feedback the whole year to feel like they’re going to be fired because of the feedback you gave them in June of last year. Okay, that’s not helpful.  So feedback is about growth and continuous learning, performance management is really about are you on track for promotion, raises, those kinds of things.

BILL YATES:  I so appreciate that distinction, that is – I’m high-fiving you for that.  And, you know, there’s another thing, too, that – you mentioned purpose right at the beginning.  With feedback, what is the purpose for it?  Is it to affirm positive behavior?  Is it to step in and adjust some negative behavior?

It was interesting, I’ve read a lot of Marcus Buckingham.  And I heard him, so it was interesting, I heard him speaking one time, and it was as if he’d had a bad day. So he was really down on feedback, and I think he’d seen it done poorly.  And so he was kind of on his soapbox going, let’s get this right, or let’s don’t do it. And one of his quotes was “Feedback is only useful if delivered in a coaching context.”  And I really had to think about that, and so I thought, you know, that’s great.  It’s like, okay, I’m not just going to emotionally vent on a team member and then walk away from it and go, okay, I’m sure they have a very clear perception now of my expectations.  No, no, no, it needs to be in a coaching context.

Again, think of sports.  You know, you give feedback in the moment, hey, so you fouled that play or you missed the shot or whatever. So let’s talk about it right now, and here’s how you can improve it, it’s in the right context, okay, now let’s move on. Get back in the game you know, so it should be – or you made a great shot or a great play.


BILL YATES:  You helped your player in this way.  This is tremendous.  Keep doing it, you know, so I appreciated that advice from Buckingham.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  I think I like that.  And then maybe to make it even a little bit more clear I would push it to say deliver feedback in a self-aware manner.  So what I loved about what you’re saying is, hey, I don’t want to just be emotionally venting at somebody because what that means is you’re not being self-aware of what’s going on for you. And so you are now bringing that to the table and potentially harming a relationship; right?  You are taking what I call your crap, talking about their crap, and now you’re creating more crap between the two of you.

BILL YATES:  A big pile of crap.

Constructive Feedback as a Teaching Moment

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  A big pile of crap and now you’re going to have to work with that from this point forward.  So whenever you’re giving feedback, I think a couple things, especially if it’s negative feedback, you know, really consider doing it one on one.  Age-old rule, don’t call people out in front of a group.  Take them aside and let them know, unless you really are delivering it in a very constructive manner, and you’re very self-aware, and you’re really using it as a teaching moment for everyone in the room.

And I have been in this situation.  This is also an inclusion story.  But there was a manager who, during a meeting – I was a Level 1 employee.  We had Level 3 managers all around the room and they were all women except for this one man and he kept using the word “rape” during this meeting.  He was talking about raping the competition.  This was eight years go.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, gosh.


CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Okay?  And at the end, I mean, he talked for 20 minutes and this was a time when I even used to use this word with my friends, okay?  I played billiards a lot, so this is very common terminology; okay?  We wouldn’t do that now post Me Too movement and so on.  So don’t hate on him too much.  But at the end he was like, does anyone have any questions? So I wasn’t even sitting at the table, I was sitting at the edges of the room, and I raised my hand, and I said, “Hey, you know, that was really great.  I really loved all that, but could you please just stop saying the word ‘rape’?”

Now, this caused silence.  You know, it was dead silence and then he was like, “Oh, my god, I’m so sorry.”  And apparently this moment was talked about for the next six months.  Now, I was a little bit green, so I didn’t think about should I have taken him aside and not embarrassed him in front of all these other Level 3 female managers who were in the room?  But even in hindsight I’m glad I did it within that group because that entire group, this was the topic of conversation for six months.  Because the women were wondering, well, why didn’t I say anything?  And so now they confronted their beliefs about what they’re allowed to say as women managers in this organization.  He totally didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

You know, so there was a lot that came out of it that became a teaching moment. And, you know, I said it in a relatively kind, jokey way, to be honest, because to me I was just like, you know, you’re green, you come in…

BILL YATES:  You’re thinking of billiards, yeah, yeah, yeah.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah, so I’m thinking of I talk about – I’m just like, oh, this just isn’t workplace appropriate, let’s just keep it cool.  But so, you know, anyway, sorry. Really important story in my mind that changed a lot for that group, and it changed the culture, also the culture was strong enough to support that type of feedback.

So anyway, when you’re giving feedback, I would really think about are you doing it one on one?  Are you doing it in front of a group, and why?  So really assess yourself, are you doing this without asking questions of why they’re doing it? Are you assuming their intention, maybe do some inquiry before giving the feedback? So those are some of the things I would be thinking about.  Really, to me, the new intelligence is self-awareness.  We can talk about book smarts.  We can talk about street smarts. But where are you on the journey of knowing your triggers and knowing what causes you to react and how are you shaping your relationships because of that?

Because everything we do in this world comes down to relationships, things you do in your head don’t even matter.  It’s got to be out there in the world.  So people who say to me that relationships don’t matter or human capital, this is all fluff stuff, I have no clue what you’re talking about.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, just keep walking.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Because if it was just you alone…

BILL YATES:  Don’t waste your time with them.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Yeah.  If it was just you alone, well, great, fantastic, good for you but it’s you because of the relationships that you’re able to produce.

Contacting Crystal

NICK WALKER:  Well, Crystal, it’s very probable that there are listeners who want to know more about this topic.  They may want to take advantage of your skills, so how can people reach out to you?

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  Really recommend reaching out to me on LinkedIn.  Crystal Kadakia, I’m sure it’ll be printed in text, so you’ll have the spelling there, I respond to everybody personally on LinkedIn. So my own adventures with digital technology and balance have shown me, do not try to be out there on too many channels.  Pick one and be intimate on it, so LinkedIn for me is that, and I respond to everyone personally.  So feel free to reach out and drop me a line and let me know that you were on the Velociteach podcast, and that’s where you heard of me, and would love to talk further. Kadakia Consulting

NICK WALKER:  Well, we feel so privileged to have you here on this podcast.  We have a little gift for you here, so this is the Manage This coffee mug with our compliments, and it works for any generation.

CRYSTAL KADAKIA:  I love it.  And it’s got a nice microphone.  Thank you so much.


NICK WALKER:  Thank you again, Crystal.  Now, we’re all looking for insight into how to better ourselves, so let me ask something from our listeners.  We hope you’re enjoying these podcasts, and, if so, would you let us know by leaving a review on Google, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or other podcast listening app?  You can also leave us a comment on our website, Velociteach.com, or social media, we value your feedback, and by taking a moment to let us know your thoughts, you can help us improve.

So one way we’re all improving is by earning those PDUs, Professional Development Units that are necessary for your recertifications. You just earned some free ones by listening to this podcast, so to claim them, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and then click through the steps.

That’s it for this episode of Manage This.  Thanks for joining us.  We hope you’ll tune back in on September 17th for our next podcast, until then, keep calm and Manage This.

11 responses to “Episode 88 – Building a Cross-Generational Workplace”

  1. Theresa Siordia-Rybarski says:

    Glad I decided to apply

  2. Mashanda Ruffin says:

    Great podcast. I like how the generations were distinguished

  3. Megan says:

    Great podcast discussing how Project Managers have a need regarding understanding differences in the project teams and working together/building interpersonal relationships.

  4. Justin Grounds says:

    Some really helpful information for the older generations as far as clearing up misconceptions and lost in translation issues with the younger generations.

  5. Yuji says:

    Great episode.
    I am a 50years old Project Manager, but I learned a lot from her.

  6. seb oyegun says:

    really illuminating on feedback and performance reviews

  7. Hani Karam says:

    Great podcast. One of the best podcasts I listened to. The material was highly educational and enlightening, especially the distinction between feedback and performance reviews.

  8. Luis Leon says:

    Definitely this “millenial gap” is something one has to pay extra attention in today´s organizations.

  9. Peter says:

    One of the best podcasts [on this site] that I have heard.

  10. George says:

    I did not agree with everything I heard, but that actually means I was paying attention. Interesting points. Thanks.

  11. Cheryl Allen says:

    great description of how to work with and motivate varying attitudes towards work!

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