Today, I want to talk about the generation gap that exists between well, uh…generations. Maybe you haven’t thought about this, but I do because I am in that prime “I could hire an associate” age (been there, done that).
I have to give you an example. My father is a baby boomer. My father and I have a very strange relationship. We were first father and son, then we were boss and employee, then we were partners, then we were employee and boss. Our relationship has been through it all, and I think we have had challenges at every stage. Why? You have to think of personality and how it is influenced.
My dad was brought up right after the Great Depression, which had to be a huge influence on the way in which his parents raised him. He went into the military right out of school. Needless to say, all of these things influenced my father and his personality.
I am 45 years old and a member of Generation X. What do you think are the things that influenced my generation? I have one word for you: MTV.
Now, in my generation, the divorce rate tripled. We experienced the first Nintendo Game Boy, and were around when the personal computer was introduced.
There is a quite a gap even between Gen Xers and the Millennials. Now what about the Millennials? The technology boom has had a huge influence on them. I mean, how could it not? They’ve also lived lives full of news about natural disasters, increased violence, gang activity, and more.
I am kind of worried about my kids. I mean those f@#$ing smartphones are in front of my kids all of the time. It is a battle royale every day to get them to put those phones down (I have to say that I am guilty of this as well; I have to check my Twitter all the time.).
But a couple of things happened in the last month that got me thinking about this topic. I had a friend who hired an associate and things didn’t really work out for the two of them. See, it seemed that the associate didn’t really want to learn.
My friend, who is about my age, is really good at what she does, and she assumed that when this associate was slow on patients that she would come on over to the boss’ operatory and watch—to soak up all of my friend’s 20 years of knowledge. However, that didn’t happen.
My friend would try to mentor her associate, but the associate didn’t really seem to want to be mentored.
My friend would go into the associate’s office and she would be on the computer. Sometimes she would try to better herself by looking at dental news, but other times she would just be on Facebook.
My friend would try to spark up conversations with her, but she felt like it was a one-way street. She was trying to help the associate to want to learn. My friend was frustrated. The associate was frustrated. The associate ended up leaving the practice and buying another practice.
Now that is a whole new set of blogs. How does a dentist who is fresh out of school buy her own practice and succeed—especially someone who didn’t really want to learn?
I know it can be done, but it is going to be much harder. I mean, in dental school they don’t teach you much about payroll or disability insurance. They don’t tell you how to buy equipment or how to repair things. School doesn’t teach you about when to refund money or when to fire patients. So, if you buy a practice right out of school, you better learn all of this pretty fast.
To me, the question is why? Did the associate just want more money? Does she think she can do it better than the others in that town? Does she really think it’s going to be so easy that she can just walk in and do it? Is it that she just didn’t want to work for someone else?
I know I am lumping together all Millennials, but it does seem to be a trend.
My next story is this: I was browsing on the Internet and I found this website, GoFundMe.
It turns out that this is a website with which people can ask for money for various things. I came across a young couple who was asking for money for their wedding. This is a textbook generational issue for sure.
When I first saw this, I didn’t think anything of it. However, when I showed it to some of my friends it fired up a heated conversation. See, the person who I showed this to had it tough at this stage of life. This person got married and was poor. But this person had to just plow through it. This person and the spouse both got jobs and second jobs. The husband went back to school in order to better himself for their life ahead.
There was no GoFundMe site then. Needless to say, the couple is very successful now and they are better because of their struggle.
I tried to explain that this is what is available now. Don’t fault the young couple because they are growing up in this new Web-based world. I continued to explain that we also have smartphones now and cars that talk to us. Maybe we should be taking advantage of this technology.
The basic problem is that older people like saying stuff like, “Those damn kids,” while the younger generation is saying, “Uh, Grandpa, move out of the way, we are coming through.”
There is never going to be a right answer. Our profession is always going to have several generations working together. We have to know that the era that we grew up in will influence our personality, our work ethic, and how we deal with conflict. We have to try to understand each other and learn from each other.
I know that I have a lot to offer a young dentist—or my children—but I also know that I can learn a heck of a lot from those who are younger than me.
They just have to get off their cell phones long enough to teach me something (I’m joking!).
Listen, if I don’t talk to you before then, have a great holiday season!
I know you are all working very hard and it is a trying time. Taking a bunch of days off and not producing can be stressful (especially if you just bought that practice…I kid), and you can lose the reason for the season.
Take a deep breath and try to reflect on all of the huge blessing we have. That is reason to celebrate.
John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD