Do You Speak Geek or Suit?

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One of the many challenges in today’s workplace is getting the generations working together.   The work habits and goals of Veterans differ from those of 20-somethings.  Getting them to work together can be difficult.  Even in retail companies, with so many younger workers, there are challenges getting a younger, more tech savvy generation working well with older non-technical co-workers and managers.

With the tech savvy Gen Xers and Gen Yers growing older, generational differences are morphing into one of the technical against non-technical employees.  An article describes the two factions as Geeks and Suits.  As the technical generations grow up and take on management positions, they adopt more traditional roles of their Baby Boomer predecessors.  They become the “suits” to the millennial Geeks. 

The greatest challenge is communications.  The techies speak a language of their own.  Programmers and technicians have their own language which is difficult for those with a non-technical background to understand.  It’s like trying to read the old Gregg shorthand symbols.  Someone skilled in shorthand could take 120 words a minute in shorthand and transcribe it just as quickly.  The symbols meant words and phrases.  To the untrained eye, it was just a bunch of lines and squiggles.

Years ago, the lines were more defined between the suits and geeks.  Now, everyone has to have some technical skills just to operate email and a cell phone.  Having some technical expertise is a given in just about any job.  Those who are non-technical have to rely on their technical counterparts to get things done using the latest technology.  Geeks need the expertise of the suits with their communications, management, and interpersonal skills.

How can these two factions work best together?  Regardless of a person’s skill set, all have to be on the same team.  Companies are looking more at personality and fit first and skill and experience second.  No one can afford to work alone.  The team concept embraced in the Total Quality Management culture of the 80’s and 90’s is evident today.  Children learned these skills in school, where teamwork and collaboration is considered a strength and a necessity.  These work habits are valued in the workplace and help suits and geeks forget about differences for the positive gains of collaboration.

Vacationing in a foreign country without knowing the language can be frustrating.  Working with people who speak a totally different language with specific jargon or acronyms is equally as frustrating.  Some companies go so far as to create dictionaries with terms and definitions so that team members can communicate more clearly.  It’s especially frustrating for new employees who have the stress of taking on a new job, new co-workers and expectations. 

Taking on a new job requires being a little bit of both suits and geeks to be successful.  You have to let your new employer know you are comfortable with both sides of the job.  It’s not enough to be totally one or the other.   


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