No one likes a queue jumper, right? Everyone hates being stuck in a line, and we all agree that the fairest outcome for all is to simply wait our turn.
Now imagine this scene. Two managers at a major inner-city firm step into the company lift. Small talk turns to the good news that COVID-19 lockdowns are gradually lifting and pubs are reopening. Then one of the two, a bearded fifty-something, lets loose: “I’m generally a defender of the younger generation,” he begins, “but when they start lining up at bars I just want to punch every single one of them.”
Like many of us, our bearded friend likely grew up with an expectation that pub life isn’t about queuing. He learned to prefer burrowing his way to the bar, harrying the pub staff and flickering a finger holding a $20 note - actions that were quickly rewarded with a cold beer.
And, according to our bearded fifty-something at least, anyone who wants to undermine the muddled huddle at the bar system should be laid siege to.
But even if you can see his point, it has to be said that Generation Zers have taken it upon themselves to make lining up for a beer much more fair. The old rules are gone. Everyone waits their turn, everyone gets a drink. It’s equitable and it’s Gen Z thinking in a nutshell.
The Gen Z effect
Generation Z are a generation of doers, think Malala Yousafzai, David Hogg, Billie Eilish, Greta Thunberg - all tilting toward praxis and bringing about real change, from climate action to education for girls, mental health campaigns to gun violence, and yes, even the little matter of pub queues.
So what has lining up in bars got to do with your business, and what might the two highly successful managers we met in the lift want to consider as young workers return or start post-COVID and their office demographic shifts?
In 1986, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram sent researchers out to queue-jump at New York betting shops and the city’s subway system. Incredibly, even in the hurly-burly Big Apple, only 10 percent of Milgram’s queue jumpers were forcibly removed from the line. Most of the time, people in the queues simply mumbled, tut-tutted or kept silent.
The late American political philosopher John Rawls defined fairness as the correct distribution of fundamental rights and duties, and the consequent division of advantages. Knowing that you should be next to get a beer, and then seeing someone else get served upsets both us and the Rawlsian apple cart.
Humans have a powerful instinct to cooperate with the group, but when one person either fails to co-operate or reaps an unearned reward that altruistic bond is broken.
Allowing generations to speak
If the teams at your workplace feel they are being undermined by individuals who are “doing their own thing”; they can’t resolve their differences; or they feel that their ideas and contributions are being overlooked or even rejected, then, just like Milgram’s queuers who were disrupted by a line cutter, they’ll mostly feel unable to speak up, preferring instead to mumble disapproval, tut-tut or stay silent.
The Harvard Business Review notes that as young workers return to work after the COVID-19 lockdown the key to creating teams that work is to focus on “emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.”
Gen Zers, already known for building meaningful relationships and collaborating to solve problems, have tapped into a system that works for everyone.
Bridging the generation gap
As your staff get younger, bridging the generational gap to Gen Z employees - who have a strong inclination to create a fairer world - will be an important ongoing issue. But even if your teams don’t include younger staff, the same Rawlsian principles apply: teams work best when everyone is treated with respect when it comes to duties and rewards. And people of all ages want to work for a business that matches their values.
At V-Teamwork we engage with your teams to enhance their human-to-human soft skills. We help create the dispositions needed to let individuals of every generation speak up, effectively resolve conflict, share ideas, listen, develop a curious mindset and flourish. Ours is a revolutionary program that empowers leaders and teams to reach their full potential through experiential learning and coaching.