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With over 25 years of experience in the media industry at companies, such as Condé Nast, Lionsgate, CBS, Viacom, Discovery and Hasbro, Joanna Dodd Massey, Ph.D., MBA is an experienced C-level communications executive and Board Director. She has managed brand reputation, corporate turnaround, crisis communications and culture transformation. Currently, she serves as a consultant, who advises clients on communicating with Millennial and Gen Z employees, consumers, and investors. She is a corporate speaker and trainer, as well as author of the upcoming book, “Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace” (in stores on May 19, 2020).
For the first time ever, we have five generations in the workplace. People are living longer and working longer, so we have workers as young as 18 and as old as 80s. There is a big difference between how an 18-year-old views the world and how an 80-year-old views the world, because of the eras in which they were raised—what was going on when they were growing up, the generally accepted societal practices of the times.
Additionally, we have two generations — Millennials and Gen Z — that are forcing a level of change that we have not seen in our society since the Hippy Counterculture movement of the 1960s and 70s.
All of this change is causing defensiveness, anger, frustration, as well as stress and fear.
The simple answer is that human beings are hard-wired to resist change. The part of our brain that is responsible for this is the amygdala, known as “the reptilian brain.”
The amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of cells that lives deep in our brain and is responsible for our automatic stress responses known as fight, flight or freeze. The amygdala is programmed throughout our lives and it stores all of the memories and emotional reactions we have. Negative memories leave a bigger impression.
It is this brain process that causes us to become rooted in our beliefs and to stay with what we like and to resist that which we don’t like. Things that are familiar make us feel calm and comfortable. Things that are unfamiliar bring up stress.
As a result, that which is different from us and different from what we’re used to can cause mental-emotional issues, such as stress, anger, and fear. This can manifest as depression and anxiety, among other mental health issues.
Some people are naturally inclined to do it. Depending on their experience in life, they have become accustomed to or may even enjoy change. Others are more rooted in their beliefs and ways.
As human beings, we have the capacity for understanding. Through understanding, we learn. Through learning, we change.
Brain plasticity is our friend, because it makes all of this possible.
The neurons that fire together wire together: You can retrain your brain to react differently by repeating new, pleasant experiences that will lead to learning.
Use “mantras” that you constantly remind yourself of using your phone’s Reminder app or post-it notes around your home, office and/or car
Use negotiation and conflict resolution tactics. There are hundreds online—self-help books, spiritual methods, classes at major universities.
An example I use in my book and talks is Dale Carnegie’s method of how to win friends and influence people. It is a 100-year-old method that has withstood the test of time because human biology isn’t going to change, and Carnegie understood the types of behaviors that trigger human defense mechanisms and how to work around that.