Managing generational differences in the workplace

By Frederick Mordi

It was Pierre Diallo’s first visit to the company’s head office in Lagos. He had flown into Lagos, along with his country manager, to attend a meeting. Pierre’s colleagues had requested that he took a ‘selfie’ with the Group CEO to prove that he actually visited the firm’s head office.


And so after the meeting, Pierre sneaked in to see the big boss of the multinational company. He introduced himself to the female Secretary, who gave him a disapproving look. She asked if he was on appointment. Before Pierre could respond, the CEO breezed into the office. Pierre instantly recognised him from the company’s e-newsletters and podcasts. He quickly moved before the Secretary could stop him.

“Hi, I am Pierre Diallo from the Abidjan office. Can I take a selfie with you?”

This humorous narrative aptly mirrors the diversity that exists in today’s workplace. This diversity, which has different dimensions such as culture, language and age, can all influence the communication process in an organisation. These different dimensions of diversity often cause tension in organisations, particularly multinationals. Here, you have Pierre, who is about 23 years old and from a Francophone country, which has a different language and culture; interacting for the first time, with a female Nigerian Secretary, who is possibly in her late forties.

People of Pierre’s generation have an approach to work and life that is distinctly different from those of the older generation. They tend to be more relaxed, lackadaisical, and impulsive. You often find them listening to music from an earpiece plugged to their official laptops. That is the reason the matronly Secretary must have frowned at Pierre’s imprudence. People of her generation believe employees like Pierre lack work ethics. On the other hand, Pierre’s generation cannot seem to understand why they cannot be left alone to work in the way that best suits them. This often creates generational tension in the office.


Managing generational differences in the workplace can prove to be a challenge for multinational companies, which can have up to five generations of employees. For this reason, multinationals are paying closer attention to workplace diversity. Although there seems to be no consensus on when some generations start and stop, the following five groups are generally identified:


The Traditional School (1925 to 1945): This is the traditional ‘radio’ generation. Most members of this generation are retired pensioners, while a few are still working.

Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964): This generation, which currently sits atop the board and management of companies, derived its tag from the population explosion that followed the end of the Second World War in 1945. The older ones have retired, while those in the fifties and sixties bracket, are still in active service.

Generation X (1965 to 1980): This is the generation that is getting set to take over from the Baby Boomers. This generation values balance and diversity and have global mindset.

Generation Y (1981 to 1995). Famously referred to as ‘millennials,’ this generation, to which Pierre belongs, is reputed for its technological know-how. People like Pierre are much at home with their mobile phones which they use to surf the net and access social networking sites, even while at work. They are changing the face of business communication. But the older generations view them as a bunch of unserious people. That is why they do not often seem to get along with Generation X.

Generation Z (after 1996): Also called Generation I (for Internet) or the Net Generation, they are the generation born after the advent of the World Wide Web. They will be more tech savvy than the Generation Y because they are exposed to the net early in life.


In the next decade or so, Baby Boomer bosses will be preparing for retirement, paving the way for Generation X to succeed them. It certainly would be interesting to know how the workplace will look like when it eventually gets to the turn of Generation Y and Generation Z to head multinational corporations across the world.

That future is not too far away as Google, which was founded on September 4, 1998, has already started out implementing what many would describe as a ‘weird’ world culture. The ‘Googleplex’ reportedly offers employees free Wi-Fi-enabled buses to and from work, free meals, gym, 18 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and office crèche, and good pay package. Pierre would easily fit into this kind of company.


Frederick Mordi pricks conscience of Familiar Stranger

The Punch Newspapers, the most widely read newspaper in Nigeria, reviewed my collection of short stories, The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories, today.


Kindly click on the link below to access the review. Thank you.


Should FIFA increase World Cup teams to 48?

By Frederick Mordi


In January 2017, FIFA, the world football governing body, will meet to discuss the possibility of increasing the number of teams playing at the World Cup, from the current 32 teams to 48. If the proposal manages to sail through, it will give more countries from FIFA’s 211 members, the opportunity of participating in the world’s biggest single-event sporting competition. The last time FIFA increased the number of teams competing at a World Cup tournament was in 1998, when it added eight more countries to the original 24, bringing the total to 32 countries.

However, the 48-team format is not likely to become effective until 2026, as the current 32-team format will be used both in the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to be hosted by Russia and Qatar, respectively. The idea was part of the campaign manifesto of FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, who insists global football federations are “overwhelmingly in favour” of the initiative.

In Infantino’s own words: “If we can have a format that does not add any additional matches but brings so much joy to those who don’t have the chance to participate, then we will have to think about that.”

Money and politics appear to be the driving force behind the idea. FIFA research claims that by using the 48-team format, revenue could rise by about 20% to $6.5 billion, while profit would potentially increase by $640 million. FIFA, which explains that its decision is not financial, adds that the initiative will help in bringing the beautiful game to all.

However, the European Clubs Association, an influential stakeholder in world football, is not sold on the idea, over concerns bordering on ‘quality.’ While FIFA also accepts that there could be a drop in quality, it insists there is a need to give every nation a sense of belonging. This may be in line with the well-known saying attributed to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who is regarded as the father of modern Olympic Games: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.”

It is also not unlikely that European nations that currently have 13 slots out of the 32, making the continent the highest, will continue to enjoy its dominance. But Africa and Asia may benefit more from the process by getting extra slots.

Since the World Cup started in 1930, Europe has won 11 times: Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006); Germany (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014): England (1966); France (1998); and Spain (2010). South America has won nine times: Uruguay (1930, 1950); Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002); and Argentina (1978, 1986). The other four continents namely Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, and Oceania, have yet to win the trophy. This means that only eight out of over 200 FIFA member nations have won the World Cup, since inception.

Giving more teams the opportunity to participate in the World Cup, will benefit poorer countries and even things out a bit.


Kanu, 6 other Africans listed among 48 football legends

By Frederick Mordi


Kanu Nwankwo, the lanky ex-skipper of Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, made the list of the world’s best 48 football legends that was recently released by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). According to IFFHS, a body that keeps an account of the records of footballers, the list is based on the positions the footballers played in the game in their heyday.

Apart from Kanu, who was the only nominated Nigerian, six other Africans made the list. They include: Mahmoud El-Khatib and Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt); Rabah Madjer (Algeria); Roger Milla (Cameroun); George Weah (Liberia); and Lucas Radebe (South Africa).

The body rated Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele (Brazil), as the number one football legend in the world. Pele’s rival, Diego Amando Maradona of Argentina, also made the list that paraded other legends such as Eusebio and Luis Figo (Portugal); Dino Zoff and Roberto Baggio (Italy); and Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini (France). Others include: Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Lothar Matthäus (Germany); Johannes Cruijff, Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit (the Netherlands); and Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Stanley Matthews (England).

Kanu’s nomination did not come as a surprise as he boasts impressive records. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) recently named Kanu, who won ‘African Player of the Year‎’ ‎award twice, as one of the 10 best players the continent has produced in the last 50 years. In addition, Kanu featured prominently at Ajax in the Netherlands and Arsenal in the EPL, where he won UEFA trophies for his clubs. He also won the Olympics gold medal for the Nigeria U-23 football team in 1996.

His latest recognition is well deserved given his antecedents.

10 facts about Ogunlesi, Trump’s new economic adviser

By Frederick Mordi


The President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, recently appointed Adebayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian based in the US, as a member of his Strategic and Policy Forum.

The Forum is made up of some of America’s finest and most respected corporate titans such as Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone; Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co; Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President/CEO, IBM; and Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO, General Electric (GE). The team members are expected to help Trump shape his ambitious economic agenda.


Ogunlesi, the surprise name on the list, has some interesting pedigree that justifies his inclusion among America’s successful business leaders. Here are 10 facts about Ogunlesi that you may find interesting:

Fact #1: Ogunlesi was born in Nigeria in 1953, and has an impressive track record of academic accomplishments, a trait that runs in the family. His father is the first Nigerian professor of medicine.

Fact #2: He is the Chairman and Managing Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York-based independent investment fund, with worldwide interest in infrastructure financing.

Fact #3: He made the headlines in 2010 when GIP bought Gatwick Airport, London’s second largest. For this reason, he is referred to as ‘the Nigerian who bought Gatwick Airport.’

Fact #4: He is often described as one of Wall Street’s smartest money managers. Time magazine profiled him among 15 Most-promising Young Executives in its list of 2002 Global Influentials, while Fortune ranked him as the Seventh Most Powerful Black Executive in the United States.

Fact #5: He studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford University, where he bagged a bachelor’s degree with honours. He also attended Harvard Law School, where he became one of the first two editors of African descent, to serve together on the influential Harvard Law Review.

Fact #6: After leaving Harvard, he served as a law clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1980 to 1983, making him the first non-American to serve in this capacity at the nation’s highest court.

Fact #7: In 1983, Ogunlesi joined the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He practiced law for only nine months before he was invited for discussions by First Boston, an investment bank, which later offered him a job. It was at First Boston that he received the grooming that has today, made him highly sought after.

Fact #8: When the Credit Suisse Group acquired First Boston in 1997, the new entity was renamed Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). The chief executive of CSFB, John Mack, once described Ogunlesi thus: “Bayo Ogunlesi is a banker of powerful intellect, integrity and innovation. He has a broad global perspective and keen understanding of complex financial transactions. Our clients worldwide have benefited greatly from his strategic insights.”

Fact#9: Despite his long years of living in Europe and America, Ogunlesi still manages to stay in touch with developments at home. He has been at the vanguard of championing African economic renaissance, which is gradually taking roots across the continent.

Fact#10: Though Ogunlesi has never had the full opportunity of working for the Nigerian government, he had served former President Olusegun Obasanjo as an adviser in an informal capacity, particularly on privatisation matters.

Ogunlesi, no doubt, is an inspiration to this generation, and his appointment by Trump, has debunked negative stereotypes about Nigeria and Africa.

A tale of two Georges

 By Frederick Mordi


George Washington, the first President of the United States, and one of the founding fathers of the country, is reputed to be an honest man. He imbibed the noble virtue of honesty as a child. His father taught him that he should always stand up for the truth.

An incident that reportedly happened while he was growing up proved to be a test of his character. As the story is told, his father gave him a present of a hatchet, one day. Washington was proud of his small hatchet. He swung the axe around the garden playfully, and used it to trim down plants everywhere that fancied his attention. Doing this must have made him feel like a strong lad. He did not know when he cut down his father’s favourite young cherry tree.

Upon discovering that his cherry tree had been chopped down, his angry father demanded to know who did it. Shaking like a leaf, Washington quickly owned up: “Papa, I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.”

His father’s anger dissolved away at once. His face brightened up as he said, “It is all right George. I shall not beat you because you told me the truth.”

Another boy named George Brown, also mistakenly chopped down a tree that his father very much cherished. His enraged father thundered: “Who cut down my apple tree?”

“I did it dad,” replied the lad boldly.

Mr. Brown gave his son a good hiding for cutting down his apple tree. Still sobbing, the boy sought to know why he got smacked, even when he owned up like George Washington did. To this, his father replied sarcastically, “you are George Brown; not George Washington!”

The tale of the two Georges has a valuable moral lesson: no matter what, honesty is the best policy in life. This resonates with the words of Alexander Pope, a famous English poet, who once wrote that “an honest man is the noblest work of God.”


Adversity Quotient: Secret of successful people

By Frederick Mordi


Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was a dogged fighter and an enduring symbol of perseverance. Lincoln grew up in abject poverty and often went about without shoes. For this reason, he was nicknamed ‘Barefoot Abe.’

He did not receive formal education because his parents were poor. But he loved reading. He was an omnivorous reader. He read any book that he came across, often by the fireplace, as electricity was not common in those days. Little by little, he taught himself how to read and write. He eventually became a lawyer. As a lawyer, he had a reputation for being honest. This also earned him the moniker: ‘Honest Abe.’ He did various jobs including: manual labourer, railroad builder, store clerk, soldier, and surveyor, before he entered politics.

It is said that he failed several times in his political career. He was defeated when he ran for the position of Speaker; he was defeated when he tried to get nomination for Congress; and he was defeated for the Senate. He also lost the nomination for Vice President. But he did not give up, until he finally became President. Apart from politics, he also failed in business. Lincoln’s interesting story demonstrates man’s inherent ability to triumph over adversities. It proves the truth in the well-known saying often used to encourage people who are passing through difficulties in life: ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’


People have different threshold levels for managing adversity. Some people have low threshold, while others have high threshold levels. Those with high threshold levels are able to push on, when others give up easily. Successful people appear to have high threshold levels of managing adversity. A few examples will drive home this point.

Henry Ford’s early business ventures failed before he became successful; Soichiro Honda, the man who founded Honda, once failed a job interview with Toyota Motor Corporation, but did not lose hope; even Bill Gates Jr. founder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest men on the planet, failed in his first business. All three surmounted the initial obstacles on their path and went on to become successful.


Dr. Paul Stoltz, who has studied the capacity of people to handle adversities, coined the term Adversity Quotient (AQ) in 1997. Stoltz defines AQ as a score that measures the ability of a person to deal with adversities in his or her life. AQ is also referred to as the science of resilience. Stoltz put together his research findings in a book entitled: Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, which became an international bestseller.

It all started during his undergraduate days at the University of California, when he sought to know from his professor what makes people win in business, sport, school and even life. The professor could not answer this question. And so Stoltz took it upon himself to find out why. It was his research that eventually culminated in the concept of Adversity Quotient.

Man using scissors to remove the word can't to read I can do it concept for self belief, positive attitude and motivation

Stoltz discovered in the course of his research that people respond differently to adversity. He found out that how people respond to adversity determines how successful they become in life. Perhaps, the most interesting part of his discovery is the fact that AQ is not fixed and as such can be improved upon. Stoltz and his team have come up with a series of scientifically backed, internationally tested, and verified methodologies that consistently drive improvements in AQ.

Currently, PEAK, an organisation that he set up to research into AQ, has helped schools and companies to increase their performance. For instance, Harvard Business School has integrated Stoltz’s AQ theory and methods into its executive education courses. Apart from education and business, the AQ concept also finds application in the field of health. A study in the United Kingdom further established that there is a correlation between AQ and optimism, happiness, meaningful engagement at work, and general quality of life. AQ is quite different from Intelligence Quotient (IQ), which measures one’s level of intelligence; or Emotional Intelligence (EQ) that relates to a person’s ability to make mature decisions.


It is important to build up your strength to be able to confront adversity, when it comes. One of the ways of defeating adversity is by refusing to give up in the face of daunting challenges. The words of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, may serve as an inspiration as you do so: “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”