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Are You a Master of Workplace Adaptation?

As an IT consultant, you probably are.  If not, you should be.  In fact, having to adapt to different workplaces very quickly, in comparison to your permanent coworkers, puts you in the unique situation of being or becoming a “master” of workplace adaptation.

Each client expects that you adapt quickly, as it is an implied characteristic of a “true” consultant.  They require that you understand the nuances of their corporate culture, way of doing things and employee mix.  And you have to do that quickly and with minimal guidance, contrary to most permanent IT employees who have a thorough onboarding process and weeks or months to adapt to their environment. As an IT consultant, time is never on your side.  Notwithstanding each organization’s corporate culture and management styles, here are 3 simple facts about today’s workplace:

  • Never before has there been a workforce and workplace so diverse in race, gender, and ethnicity;

  • We have four generations working side-by-side for the first time in history; and,

  • All have unique experiences and attributes which influence their attitudes towards work.

I want to bring your attention to the second point, what some have called the “generational divide” in the workplace. As mentioned, for the first time in history we have four generations working side-by-side. It is important to understand their main attribute so you can “navigate” in your new team and work environment.

Generations working side by side:

Many Generations in a Company
  • Seniors/Veterans: born between 1920 and 1945 are loyal, respect authority, appreciate discipline and hard work, are more formal and are able to wait for rewards. While most of them are retired, the one who are still in the workforce value structure, commitment, conformity and responsibility.

  • Baby-Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964, are competitive and think workers should pay their dues. They are independent, work long hours to get ahead and struggle with work-life balance. They are sometimes called the “Me” generation.

  • Gen Xers: born between 1962 and 1977, are more likely to be skeptical and independent-minded.  They are techno-literate and are sometimes called the “Not impressed” generation.

  • Gen Ys (also known as Millennials): born in 1978 or later and like teamwork, feedback and technology. They are more impatient and independent.

A lot of articles have been written on the subject as well as dozens of books.  I invite you to learn more and read about it.  This is just a reminder that you not only need to understand where you are on this generation spectrum but, to be a valued consultant, you also need to recognize that each generation brings their own set of skills and cultural norms.  Today’s environments are a mix of those different generations, cultures and talent.

And never forget: everywhere you go, your listening skills and your attitude are your most important “weapons” of adaptation. Major studies have shown that one of the best attribute to integrate a workplace and show leadership in your domain is directly related to your ability to ask the right questions and listen.  As for attitude, we are social animals. Across generations, ethnicity and gender, peer mimicry is part of every workplace. So working on yourself and projecting the right attitude will also ease the adaptation process.

As a consultant, you have to adapt to every new client.  Being able to master this will build a unique set of skills and add more value for both you and your future clients.