Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 558 – HMRP Monday Edition: Independence Day; Roe v. Wade; & Generational Differences with Chris Hauck, Founder of HauckEye, and Erin Sowell, Founder of Thoughtful Research

Today I’m joined by Chris Hauck, founder of HauckEye. HauckEye is a marketing research consultancy providing insights through deep ethnographic and experiential research. 

Erin Sowell, founder of Thoughtful Research. Thoughtful Research helps businesses understand and meet the sustainability, inclusion, and wellness needs of their customers and employees. 

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Jamin Brazil: Today is July 4th, 2022, happy Monday. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. I’m Jamin Brazil, your host. Support for the Happy Market Research Podcast and the following message comes from Michigan State’s Marketing Research Program and HubUX. The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the number one ranked insights and analytics degree in three formats. Full-time on campus, full-time online, and part-time online. New for 2022, if you can’t commit to their whole degree program, simply begin with one of their three course certifications, Insights Design, or Insights Analysis. In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build towards your graduation. If you’re looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSMU’s program at BROAD.MSU.edu/marketing. Again, BROAD.MSU.edu/marketing. HubUX is a research operations platform for private panel management, qualitative automation, including video audition questions and surveys. For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account visit HubUX.com. If you are in the US, Happy Independence Day. I’m going to provide a bit of a history lesson along with some editorial privilege that I’ll be taking. Given current events, some of you may find this offensive, so I’m apologizing ahead of time. My intent is to help ensure that we as research professionals can continue to have productive conversations and keep open minds during these highly emotional times. Two hundred and forty-six years ago on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally adopted a declaration of independence. From then on, the Fourth of July became the day that we as Americans celebrate as a birth of American independence. But independence from what exactly? Well, in short taxes without representation, but put more simply taxes without direct benefit. According to Wikipedia, American colonists objected to being taxed by the British Parliament, a body in which they had no direct representation. Now at that particular point in time in the 1760s and before, Britain’s American colonies, they had enjoyed a high level of autonomy in their internal affairs. In other words, colonial legislators were the ones that were governing things, from taxes to laws. However during the 1600s, British Parliament passed a number of acts that were intended to bring the American colonies under more direct rule from British government. And increasingly, they intertwined the economies of the colonies with those of Britain, end quote from Wikipedia. Now at this point in time, this is really important, Britain’s monarchy under King George the Third, and the Roman Catholic Church held absolute power over their population. In fact back in the 1700s, a child – and before, a child was baptized at birth. It was at that ceremony, the child’s name would be recorded, and they would be considered a citizen of the British Empire. And if someone didn’t have the Catholic Church baptism, or baptize their child, then that child would literally have no rights and be considered not a citizen, and even the entire family could be considered both criminals and potentially prosecuted. So meanwhile, you’ve got the pilgrims. Now this was a group that was really founded around 1550 or so, they were the American settlers. These are the people that came over in the Maria, Santa Maria, these were English Protestants who were influenced by John Calvin. A big part of their mission was to, in air quotes, purify the Anglo church of its Roman Catholic influences. Now arguably the biggest influence – I’m going somewhere, bear with me. The biggest influence was termed the age of consent, and this is the age that a person is old enough to choose their religious beliefs for themselves. Now when a child was born, they would be baptized, arguably, you know, a ball of snot, and they really have no cognizant awareness of what’s happening. But at that point in time, the child was considered to be a Christian. Now, the teachings – and again, John Calvin and others, suggested that you actually had to make a decision if you were going to be – on your religious beliefs if you were going to be considered part of that group. And so the pilgrims, they believed that the age of consent was around 12 years old and/or older, and you needed to be old enough to really understand heaven, hell, in order to make a choice. So assuming that you chose to be a Christian, then you would have the opportunity to get baptized. Now, this is where you see the actual act of being baptized again. It was literally illegal at that point in time because it undermines the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, it created a distinction of Canon or beliefs that were so fundamental that – to the authority of the Church, that they would literally seek out and prosecute or persecute people that were being rebaptized or the Anabaptists. So from them, you get the Mennonites – my point us, in addition to freedom from taxation without representation, America was founded on the freedom of religion. In fact, the first clause of the Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The first clause of the Bill of Rights gives religious freedom to the masses so that we can choose to be rebaptized as an adult without fear of prosecution, or we can choose to not be baptized at all. Today, you can be Muslim, Agnostic, Buddhist, Atheist, or whatever if you live in America. On June 24th, 2022, things took a dark turn, or a light turned depending on your point of view. The Supreme Court overruled Roe in Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the grounds that the right to abortion was not, and I quote, deeply rooted in the nation’s history or traditions. That is very, very powerful for us to understand the legislation justification. The topic of abortion being illegal, or a woman’s right to choose, has been massively politicized. People even in my circle have blocked each other on social platforms. I’m talking about fully formed adults who are smarter than I’ll ever hope to be, literally blocking people who land on the opposite side of their point of view. I have many friends who are pastors. In fact, I even hold a degree in theology and biblical studies. My concern is that the Christian church continues to drive legislation on the framework of morality, versus public health. I recently came across an interview with Alexander Sanger an American reproductive rights activist, and the current chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council. He is the grandson of Margaret Sanger, who – she founded Planned Parenthood and opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 1916. I found this link, it just came across my page on TikTok, interestingly enough. It’s about 30 seconds or 60 seconds or so. I hope you enjoy the clip.


Speaker 1: We’re here in New York city asking people their thoughts on abortion.


Alexander Sanger: Do you know who you’re interviewing?


Speaker 1: Sorry, no.


Alexander Sanger: I’m Alexander Sanger. I’m the former President of Planned Parenthood, New York. My grandmother – my grandmother was Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood. You cannot make abortion go away by criminalizing it. All you do is, you make it unsafe. You out women at risk, poor women, women of color, women who don’t have the advantages of middle class, wealthy women to travel somewhere and get an abortion. It’s discriminatory, it’s unfair, it’s unsafe, and to me it’s just a total outrage against women.


Speaker 2: It’s a woman’s choice.


Speaker 1: Yes.


Jamin Brazil: This is a difficult issue for all of us. We are an industry made up of wickedly smart people, but even we can succumb to the propaganda and outright hate that is being spewed all around us. We are an industry that must suspend judgement, at least while we do research. That is our superpower, judgement suspension. The rest of the world, they don’t have that. They don’t even know what that is largely, but that is what we do. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have strong points of view. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that we have the ability to pause those points of view, and be open minded, to understand other people’s points of view. For me, I’m very much in agreement with Alexander Sanger’s point of view. I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling will have an unimaginably negative impact on our society that will manifest itself in increased risks to women’s health, homelessness, mental illness, crime, the list is going to go on and on. And it’s a price tag that our future generations will be paying, not the people that made the choice. And sadly those people, those people that have been supporting this ruling, they largely will be unimpacted by it since they can afford to move out of the poorer areas in favor more attractive and affluent surroundings. However many of my closest friends and family members, people that live under my roof, they could not disagree with my point of view more. Does that mean we can’t have a hard conversation? Absolutely not. We do have those hard conversations, but it also means that I’m prioritizing those relationships above a political position or legislation. That’s just how I’m feeling about it right now. And to that end, I know that this is a very hard issue, and my hope is that you will keep your ears open and that you will be willing to have conversations with people. If for no other reason to help build empathy and try and understand where they’re coming from. It’s unlikely you’re going to be able to change anybody’s point of view. That can’t be the objective, but what we can expect to happen at the outset of this is respect to be built across party lines, and position lines. And so with that, I know it’s heavy, we’re gonna move into a long-form interview. I hope you have a great rest of your Fourth of July holiday, and also some beers, or however it is that you celebrate, enjoy.


Jamin Brazil: Hey everybody, welcome to the Happy Market Research Podcast. I’m Jamin Brazil your host. I have two guests today. Erin Sowell founder of Thoughtful Research. For those that don’t know, Thoughtful Research helps businesses understand and meet the sustainability, inclusion and wellness needs of their customers and employees. My second guest is Chris Hauck, he is the founder of HauckEye Research. HauckEye is a marketing research consultancy providing insights through deep ethnography and experiential research. How are you both doing today?


Erin Sowell: Pretty good. Excited to be here.


Chris Hauck: Actually, Jamin, I have COVID. But I’m doing fine.


Jamin Brazil: I know. I’m laughing as a brother in pain, sir. I totally relate.


Chris Hauck: Thanks for asking though. How are you, Jamin?


Jamin Brazil: I don’t have COVID, thankfully. I don’t have COVID.


Chris Hauck: Yay.


Jamin Brazil: Very, very thankful for that. Doing well, all things considered. It was so nice seeing both of you really, for the first time in person at QRCA in San Diego, just – of course, that meeting was – a highlight for me was the presentation that you gave. The topic, Connecting Generations, and it was about sparking connection, understanding and empathy in the workplace. But it had this really nice vibe to the presentation that you gave, and I just want to give everybody some context. You basically had a framework of how each age category, so from Gen Z to Millennial to Gen X to Boomers, how we see ourselves and then how we see the other generations. Which seemed to create this really interesting kind of lens, by which we were able to not just understand ourselves better, but also understand how other people see us which was super interesting. What was your thesis going into the research? And Erin, I’m gonna pick on you first.


Erin Sowell: So Chris and I, we just wanted to learn more about intergenerational disconnection. So intergenerational disconnection happens when different generations don’t see, hear or value the perspectives of other generations. So Chris and I, just being out in the world, we noticed a lot of instances of disconnection, we were curious to learn more and wanted to see if we could find a way to spark connection, and build understanding, empathy, across the generations.


Jamin Brazil: Well, I certainly felt like you guys did that.


Erin Sowell: That’s great.


Chris Hauck: Oh, thanks.


Erin Sowell: The QRCA presentation was so fun. We’re excited to do more presentations. That was our first in-person one.


Jamin Brazil: Chris, how about you? What was your thesis going into the research?


Chris Hauck: You know, it was sparked – actually the whole thing was sparked by a conversation that we had on the Lunch and Learn program where a professor at UT Arlington, Scott Hanson, got on and talked about hiring Gen Z. And the kinds of things you have to think about, and what you were facing, and there was a lot of stereotypical negative comments from Boomers. And I’ll say my generation because I’m actually a Boomer, but I’m on the cusp of Gen X, but I’m at that age where I’m super close. But that’s what really sparked the two of us to start talking about how interesting it would be to do a project with somebody of a significantly different generation, and kind of figure this out. So figure out how we could make this better. How could we improve these things? And we look at almost everything, our thesis around this is almost – almost everything we do is from the perspective of, how can we improve that environment? What can we do to make this better? So we wanted to see what we could do using our skills to improve workplaces.


Jamin Brazil: Now Erin, I know you have a point of view that you’re trying to get across, and I’d love to hear that really quickly. And then I want to try to get through the rest of the –


Erin Sowell: That sounds good. I was just gonna chime in and say that I’m on the other side of the age spectrum. I’m technically a millennial, but close to Gen Z.


Jamin Brazil: You’re both – actually, it was really an interesting – as an observer, it was interesting because you bookended the age groups that you’re representing.


Erin Sowell: Yes. Yes. Exactly. So you have the perspective covered from that age perspective at least.


Jamin Brazil: I also find it interesting that you’re both operators in the business of consumer insights, and so that to me was super telling. So Chris, let me direct this to you. Describe for us the methodology involved.


Chris Hauck: Sure. It’s qual and quant, we started out with interviews of our contacts and research from different generations. We actually talked to friends and connections, people that we knew would be good people to talk to, people who were willing to talk to us. Because frankly to be honest, we did this on – there’s – there’s no money involved at all at this point. So we don’t have a budget for this, so we just talked to people we knew. But talking to researchers helps because they’re talkative, they’re – it’s easy to get them to talk about the things that they see in their workplaces and how they act from a generational standpoint. So we talked to our friends, but really that was to build a list, a list of terms that we’re gonna use through the quantitative. Quantitative we used – well, Veridata Insights helped us with the programming, and the survey distribution in the sample of a thousand completes, 250 per generation, where we really – of people who work in an office setting, or work white-collar setting, where they work on teams, or in groups. Really, we use my – the big component, methodological component of the study is methodology that I developed to replace or to – as an alternative to MaxDiff. Kind of a quick and cheap alternative to MaxDiff, that is also a lot less. It was necessary to have it because it’s a lot less real estate on the survey. But basically, it’s a short exercise followed by a point allocation. And it did a fantastic job actually, of telling us what were the important terms that a person can use to describe their own generation, the – and we used the same set of terms to describe how you perceive other generations, so the other three generations that we were talking about. And it turned out that it works fantastically, and I knew it would because I’ve used it many times before.


Jamin Brazil: And the output of that, just for the audience’s benefit, because this is an audio-only show, was these beautiful slides which had a list of what? It was about 25 descriptors, variables, that were used to describe each generation, and then there was a corresponding sort of degree of connection or association with that generation. So for example Boomers, how they viewed Gen Z and there’d be 25 attributes with decreasing bars, rank ordered by highest to lowest, so most associated versus less associated.


Chris Hauck: The technique looks very much like MaxDiff as an output.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah. The output definitely did.


Chris Hauck: Except for in our case, there were 99 attributes that we were going by.


Erin Sowell: Can’t do – can’t do MaxDiff with 99 attributes.


Chris Hauck: Exactly. Exactly. [CROSSTALK] Oh, and the other thing I want to say before I wrap up my – this section is essentially that I’m an open-source researcher. So if you’re interested in this technique, just call or email me. It doesn’t have to be any more complex than that. I’m happy to share the method.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah. As always audience, his information, both of – both Erin and Chris’s information will be in the show notes. So Erin, let’s direct us to you even though it’s maybe a little bit backwards. Let’s start with the Boomers. How did they perceive Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X, at a high level?


Erin Sowell: Let’s start it with Gen X.


Jamin Brazil: All right. Let’s start with Gen X, your show. Let’s go.


Erin Sowell: No, no, how [INAUDIBLE sounds like: Baby Boomers] are looking at Gen X. So they see and Gen X very positively, they recognize the generation for their hard work, that they’re knowledgeable, that they take responsibility, structured, wise. Those were the adjectives that were coming to the top. It’s a little bit of a different story when looking at the younger generations, and it’s important to realize that you can’t take this information and say that every Baby Boomer thinks this, or every Baby Boomer is a certain way. There’s – nuance is important, but in general the more negative adjectives came to the top when they were asked to describe Millennials and Gen Z. So those negative adjectives are like entitled, aggressive, rebellious, moves too fast. For Gen Z, lazy, entitled, casual, narcissistic, these sorts of negative adjectives coming up. So given the stereotypes that we are all very familiar with, it seems like Baby Boomers tend to be more likely to stereotype than other generations. But it’s not everyone, and there are some Baby Boomers that see the younger generations for really great things like being socially conscious, fast learners, free spirits, things like that. Being confident.


Chris Hauck: I think the interesting thing about Boomers is that they really see younger generations as being extremely tech savvy. In general, they look at a Gen Z or Millennial and see them with a device in their hand and being able to basically run circles around them. So when we’re looking at our MaxDiff alternative, really strongly scoring tech savvy as the thing that is Gen Z and Millennial, relative – part of it is that it’s relative to them. Because we – as Boomers we did not grow up with a device in our hands, or a computer at our desk, but everybody’s better at this than we are essentially, but they have trouble seeing past it. Like it’s something that’s so pervasive and so strong, that they really do see them as little walking computers, and it’s just a stereotype that they struggle to get beyond.


Erin Sowell: Yeah. Young people are more than walking computers, but we do – we do like technology. Most of us.


Chris Hauck: Erin gets mad at me when I describe it that way, but it is the stereotype of Boomers to see them that way. Obviously, they don’t see all of them that way, but it is a struggle for them to get past this notion of how tech savvy they are.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah. Really what – the output of what you generated are personas. It’s persona research, where – but it’s the persona of the generation through the lens of other generations, which creates this super interesting montage. Let’s move on to millennials. Chris, how about millennials? How are they are perceived by Gen Z?


Chris Hauck: Jamin, I’m gonna flip the script on you and suggest that Erin answer for the younger people.


Jamin Brazil: OK.


Chris Hauck: Well, I’m gonna answer for the old people? [CROSSTALK] 


Jamin Brazil: Erin, you want to talk about the Millennials?


Chris Hauck: Erin, how do those millennials see these old people?


Erin Sowell: Millennials see the older generations pretty positively. For Gen X, millennials, smart came to the top, takes responsibility, honest, hardworking, knowledgeable. The only thing that didn’t really vibe with millennials, at least with the people that we talked to in our interviews, was the traditionalness of it all. And of course, the younger generations are going to see the older generations as being more traditional, that’s just how – the way that the world works and how it goes, but I think that is an area of frustration for them, and maybe there could be – maybe the innovative researchers and the more traditional researchers could find ways to meet in the middle but let me talk about Baby Boomers now. So Millennials, they see Baby Boomers as family-focused, knowledgeable, traditional, hardworking, wise, feckful. A lot of the millennials we talked to during the qualitative, really homed in on that family-focused and really liked it. One of the quotes we had is, “I think that they value family a lot, which is always great.” I think that’s one value from Boomers that Millennials are trying to copy, so they appreciate the family focus-ness of Baby Boomers


Jamin Brazil: Chris, any commentary?


Chris Hauck: None. I think she did fabulously well. I totally agree actually. Millennials – younger generations look up and see older generations in much more positive terms than older generations looking to younger generations, from the stereotype standpoint. And maybe part of it is that older generations are just more used to using stereotypes in order to get things accomplished as quickly as they possibly can, or to make quick decisions. And our theory, our working theory is that essentially that is a huge mistake. That’s just not the way to win hearts and minds.


Erin Sowell: Well, when you’re – when you stereotype, you’re making assumptions about somebody without even knowing them. And of course, that’s going to cause disconnection if you’re making – especially if you’re making negative assumptions like, that someone’s lazy or someone’s entitled. Maybe they care about other things, they have other priorities, they are prioritizing work-life balance and are putting boundaries around work. Maybe they care more about the efficiency of their work versus the hours that they’re putting in. These types of things.


Jamin Brazil: Erin, you’re really hitting on an important point for me as a fifty-one-year-old person. We have operated, I would say historically in a – almost like a meme framework. Where you create these shortcuts to describing a generation, and that really came to surface as the millennials entered the workforce. With a lot of negativity around sort of their differing prioritization and things that they cared about, and the generational differences between the Boomers to the Gen X was pretty noticeable. But there still was a really concentrated effort on like hours in the office, that was really important. You had employees that literally – they didn’t even have the workload to justify it, but they would spend the night under their desk in the 90s.


Erin Sowell: Wow.


Jamin Brazil: Yes. True story. Just because they wanted to wake up in the morning with that sort of, ‘Oh. I had to work all night.’ Sort of a brand.


Erin Sowell: Uh huh.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah. And now, in today’s workforce, you’d be probably fired. I don’t think that’s legal.


Erin Sowell: I think you’re getting on how work culture has changed and evolved, and work culture is a lot different now. Especially around the amount that we’re working, and what we’re putting ourselves through to get that work done. A lot of people are wanting to work sustainably and are trying to avoid burning out and want to have positive experiences at work. And encountering people that are stereotyping you and judging you can make that hard.


Jamin Brazil: And – yeah, exactly right. And Chris, I don’t know from your vantage point. I know you work with people from all different age groups, what was that like for you personally?


Chris Hauck: What do you mean?


Jamin Brazil: The – sorry. The journey of because you and I, we have probably more of a shared – my boss used to not physically beat me up, but just verbal – I would never be able to talk to one of my employees, the way that my – I was treated as an employee. That was- and just like one of the things that came up that was surprising to your – to your audience, was that it used to be the case with Boomers and Gen X, if you wanted to go to the dentist, even take an hour off, that came out of your PTO. You had to get that pre-approved by your manager, and I had to go through HR. It was not a foregone conclusion that, ‘Oh. I’m gonna go, take a two-hour lunch today.’ Even in most small operations.


Chris Hauck: And at the same time, that wouldn’t be the branding that you’d want, either? Even if you could – even if your boss is the coolest dude in the world, ‘Yeah, go. Do whatever you need to do.’ You wouldn’t want the company to see you as doing anything but working your ass off all the time. So it really was for Gen X and for Boomers, hardworking is a huge badge of honor. It’s a big deal if the company sees me as hardworking, and hardworking in the terms of putting in time, like sleeping under your desk kind of time, or just being seen as the guy who’s always at his desk, who’s always there.


Jamin Brazil: Right.


Chris Hauck: But that kind of vision of hard work isn’t real. It’s not based on productivity, it’s based on time.


Jamin Brazil: It’s optics.


Erin Sowell: I can – yeah. Optics, definitely. But I can understand if you came up in that sort of environment, where you were – you had to work very hard, you had to put a lot of hours in. Sometimes at the expense of your relationships outside of work, or your experience or whatever. I can understand why it would be very frustrating to see the younger generation putting up boundaries and saying no, and – I can understand the frustration, for sure.


Chris Hauck: And I think that’s what Jamin was getting to, is – I changed my perspective about that, owning a company, and you probably did too, Jamin. I started looking at younger people who were not of that attitude and liking what they were saying. I suddenly got that I was being – I had been an idiot for most of my working career and working my ass off didn’t mean that I had to live at the office and just work all the time. It wasn’t good for me, and it wasn’t – it wouldn’t be good for them, they’re just strong enough to say that it’s not good for them. Whereas our generation wasn’t ready yet for that, we didn’t feel free enough to do that.


Erin Sowell: But ultimately, a lot of it has to come down to the culture that you’re in, and if it’s not socially acceptable to say no, you’re not gonna say no. Now it’s becoming more socially acceptable to have boundaries.


Chris Hauck: Even in my own company, where I’ve made it – where I was 50% owner, and I made it very clear that I wanted to know what your boundaries were. And I was open to you taking the time you needed to take care of things, and I actually would do things to make it very obvious that I was very clear on that. Most of the account executives who worked for me were in the Gen X generation, and they were not very happy about it, or very open to the idea of the younger staff doing what they wanted to do and getting out when they needed to, when they became tired or overwhelmed. It’s – it was – I used to – we heard this a lot from Gen X. “I used to work all these hours. Why can’t they? I used to do this, why don’t they have to?” Kind of thing. Almost a jealousy about it.


Jamin Brazil: I agree with that. And I think one of the things that I really appreciated about the session that you both led, was the degree of humility that you both illustrated, and I think Erin you just did a perfect job of that, of applying empathy towards the view of Boomers and Gen X on work-life balance. And I believe it’s the case that – well. Actually I know it’s the case that current employers with the job market the way that it’s been for the last three years, they have to come to terms with that. They can’t be based off, “Well, no. Gosh, darn it. I want you in the office these hours and you’re gonna be sitting at your computer, even if there’s nothing to do, you’re gonna stare at it.” What? You know what I mean? That just doesn’t exist anymore. And so consequently, everybody has sort of had to create a degree of empathy and humility in terms of maybe unseating some of their biases and personas that they’ve created for other generations. And that’s created a lot of health I think, for all of us. And we do have two more groups that I want to talk about. The next is I believe, Gen X. So Chris, I’m gonna direct Gen X to you. How do they see other generations?


Chris Hauck: They’re actually much more positive. They’re kind of the workhorses of the work environment. So the stereotype for Gen X is that they’re cynical and disengaged, but they’re really not seen that way. They’re seen as hard workers, which is a badge of honor for Boomers. If as a boomer, I said that my Gen X counterparts were hardworking, that’s pretty much the nicest thing I could possibly say about anybody. Right? That’s the thing I want them to say about me. That’s the key driver for them, is that they’re really seen as hardworking, but they’re also the competent core that keeps the whole thing running. Those are work horses of organizations. They’re the bosses-to-be, but they’re really the ones who are doing the labor, they’re really driving the effort. The younger generations look up to them in that way, in a positive way, and boomers look at them and say, “Hey, that’s – ” That they’re hardworking, they’re good people, and see them in very positive ways too. And those are all stereotypes. Obviously, they don’t see every Gen X that way, but Gen X is really viewed as this hard-working group that are making a difference.


Erin Sowell: They’re also sort of like a bridge generation. They’re looked at very positively from the rest of the generations, so that puts them in a really great position to build bridges and connect, be connectors.


Chris Hauck: The comedy around these guys is that – around Gen X is that they don’t exist at all. Nobody knows they’re there. The other funny thing that you see in comedy around Gen X is that they’re basically latchkey kids, and they grew up as latchkey kids, and so they’re very independent, and very capable. They can handle themselves.


Jamin Brazil: Last group, Gen Z. Erin.


Erin Sowell: So let’s see. What does – what does Gen Z think about themselves? They see themselves as open-minded, creative, fast learners, detail-oriented. They actually noted that they’re cautious and needy which makes sense because you’re brand new. If you’re Gen Z, you’re brand new to the workforce, of course, you’re gonna be a little bit cautious, a little bit needy, trying to figure out how the lay of the land works. How to navigate the environment that you’re in, but let’s see what they think about other generations. Gen Z, they look up to millennials, they see them as being resourceful, hardworking, takes responsibility. Interestingly, Gen Z is the point allocation – I know that this audio, you can’t see it, but the points that they gave to these adjectives were much more spread out than the other generations. So that makes me think that maybe they’re looking at the world with a little bit of a more nuanced lens, and seeing people in different ways and not seeing other generations in one specific way, if that makes sense? What do they think about Gen X? Really great things about Gen X. Hardworking, efficient, structured, the only negative was maybe a little bit demanding. But maybe that has to do with Gen Xers being more likely to be in management positions, and they’re the ones giving the orders, so there’s always ways to turn your orders into requests and that way, they can be a little bit less demanding. But Baby Boomers, what does Gen Z think about Baby Boomers? Knowledgeable, respected, wise, hardworking, some of the negative ones were traditional, perfectionist, and closed-minded. I liked this quote here. “They are extremely knowledgeable and have a lot of wisdom, but they are not someone I would pick an argument with or try to change their mind.” Maybe some Gen Z-ers are – they see the – see closed-mindedness and they’re like, “I’m not even going to try to deal with that.” So, anything to add, Chris?


Chris Hauck: No. Really not. Nothing scientific, other than that Gen Z just makes me hopeful for the world. I think they’re gonna be one of those transformative generations that make a huge difference in our world, and you can already see them doing it, but – and it’s just started. So unlike a lot of Boomers, or unlike the stereotypical Boomer, I actually look at Gen Z and I’m hopeful. Very, very hopeful.


Jamin Brazil: And having interviewed many, many Gen Z-ers in the last year and a half, I’m completely aligned with you. There’s simply not a generation that’s been more equipped than Gen Z for change and similarly, they’re acting accordingly. And we’re seeing it right now at the research level, having to rethink all of our demographic questions, and that’s entirely a function of the pressure that Gen Z is putting on market research.


Erin Sowell: Yeah, helping everyone evolve.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah. Being really that catalyst for change. Erin, let’s start with you. What surprised you about the outcomes of your research?


Erin Sowell: What surprised me? During the research, I was really surprised and felt encouraged about people that I was interviewing, they were – they pushed back about generalizing, so we asked them what do you – what you think of Gen Z? What do you think of millennials? What do you think of all the generations, and a lot of them pushed back, and they’re, “I don’t want to generalize.” We had to – we had to kind of encourage them to, “It’s OK. Generalize for us, please.” But that was great. Of course, a part of research is generalizing, but we can all do our best to reduce the amount that we’re over generalizing. Because sometimes when you over generalize, it feeds the stereotyping versus feeding understanding, so just being a little bit mindful about that, is important. And then the response that we got at QRCA was so fun. It was just fun to present, and then afterwards to hear the impact and how it got through to people and how people thought it was beneficial. That was really fun and rewarding, and it feels good to see that kind of feedback.


Chris Hauck: The whole thing turned out to be more fun than I expected. Everybody seemed to be having more fun than I thought it would turn out to be. I thought they’d be serious, and it was serious and it was good learning and fun at the same time.


Erin Sowell: And that’s what we wanted. The topic of stereotyping or exclusion, it can sometimes be really intense and we wanted to bring some light to it and make it fun and engaging.


Jamin Brazil: I definitely agree with the fact that it was fun and engaging. I think, for me, it’s a heavy topic. Because as a father of Gen Alpha and Gen Z, and then also as an employer of Gen Z, it’s a different way of managing. And I think – and for me, one of the things that I’ve had to change – well, there’s two big things from a management perspective. One is the need for instant feedback with Gen Z-ers. So if they provide something in Slack, or they do something, have a deliverable to a client, it’s really important that I go out of my way to respond immediately to them saying – giving them feedback and framed in positivity. I think Erin, your point about request versus order, is exactly right. If ever I were to lead with, “Get this done by X,” which is how I was raised, then I’m probably going to lose that employee that day. They’re just not receptive to that. But if I say, “Hey, this is the client’s needs, and this is what I think it could look like. Is this something you think you could do? Just let me know if that’s not the case.” Or – then – and then they’re happy to jump on the wagon and solve that problem. And I’m not talking about manipulative, I’m just talking about a framework of priority and importance. Because it gets down to the meta of, they’re enabled and empowered, as opposed to they’re a subservient role in the organization. And so for me, the things that are important, that’re really twofold. One that you already raised which is, it’s important to see them as a partner as opposed to an employee in the business. And the second thing is, it’s really important to go out of your way to provide feedback to them, and this has been the single biggest point of failure for me as a manager in the last year and a half. Normally, if that employee were – or historically, I should say, an employee, if they had a deliverable to a client and I CC’d on that deliverable, maybe they need to get them the data set or whatever, I would just – I would not reply or respond on the thread. And now what I do is I will respond only to that person or that employee and give them some feedback like, “Hey. This is really good. Consider something like this.” In terms of if there’s opportunity for constructive feedback, and the relationship is there, or alternatively just giving them a thumbs up, and saying thanks for doing that. Which is again, not a big time commitment but it is a big mental shift.


Erin Sowell: Definitely. What you’re just saying, makes me think about being a conductor versus being a jazz musician. So the traditional way of working, it’s you have the leader upfront, who’s the conductor, and they’re telling this – the horns, you play now. Or the – I don’t know. The drums, you play now. I don’t know how to conduct, but that’s the traditional way, versus jazz you’re sort of more collaborative. You’re part of – a part of the process, you’re playing off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and it’s more collaborative. And I kind of try to ingrain that in my work, in my – in my process. Instead of telling someone what to do, building upon it. Trying to guide them versus, direct.


Chris Hauck: I try to manage the same way that you do Jamin. I see my role as being a very good coach, as opposed to being a boss. So when I had a company, I learned early on that being the boss wasn’t that useful, being everybody’s coach and trying to get the best out of everybody for their own benefit and the company’s, was way more valuable and just a better approach. People enjoyed working with me way more when I was supportive, and made the responsibility theirs, because it was – they wanted to own it. Allowing people to own their stuff, as opposed to owning it and making people do things to support me.


Erin Sowell: And science says that this type of style is actually better overall, it’s better for decision making, problem solving. Research found that teams that can connect across generations are more motivated, they are better at learning and they have better retention. So everything that we can do to connect across generations or connect across differences, it’s really important and it makes an impact on the business level.


Jamin Brazil: Well said and perfect point. Chris, Erin, thank you for joining me on the podcast today.


Erin Sowell: Thank you.


Chris Hauck: Thanks for having us.


Jamin Brazil: Everybody else, if you found some value in this, I certainly did. Please take the time, screen capture, share on social media. If you tag me, I will send you a free tee shirt. Have a great rest of your day.