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Generational Differences in the Workplace

By Human Resources Director Leslie Addison

For years, people of all ages have shared workspace, worked toward common goals and interacted on a regular basis.  We have either supervised or been supervised by people older or younger than ourselves. What we may not consciously be aware of, however, are the unique generational forces that influence the way we think, interact and behave.  Researchers have been studying the impact of generational differences in the workforce in recent years.  Understanding these differences among us will not only help to foster a cohesive work environment but will also lead to an appreciation of the strengths and diversity of our workforce.

You might find it interesting to see how they think your age influences you and those around you.  It’ll be good food for thought the next time you have a meeting or a conversation with a colleague, subordinate or supervisor. Obviously we all don’t conform to these characteristics, but they are trends that are neither bad nor good. Affirming that some differences do exist may help shed light on “what makes people tick.”

Traditionalist: Born 1925 – 1945 Brought up in a time of economic and political uncertainly and therefore tend to be hard-working, dedicated, loyal and logical. They value following rules and respecting authority. They are good team players, yet also cautious and resistant to change.  They tend to stay a long time in one workplace and prefer face-to-face, personal contact.

Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964 Brought up in a period of economic growth and abundance. Therefore work is a defining part of gratification and self-worth. They are team-oriented, resourceful, optimistic and welcome challenges.  They have given rise to the term “work-a-holic” and may have a hard time adjusting to trends for flexibility in the workplace. They can be sensitive to feedback and prefer using the telephone for communication.

GenX’ers: Born 1965 – 1980 Raised by parents who had a high dedication to work, sometimes putting work before family. They witnessed increasing divorce rates and parents who lost hard-earned jobs during the downward economy of the 80’s. As a result they tend to value family over work. They are autonomous, resilient, informal, and tend toward questioning authority. They are technologically literate and prefer e-mail communication.

GenY’ers: Born 1981 – 2000 Brought up by parents who valued children as the center of attention; the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. They tend to value and appreciate honesty, diversity and civic mindedness. They are happy, sociable and open-minded. Balance of work and personal life is fundamental, so flexible schedules are preferred.  They seek fulfilling work; want learning opportunities and immediate gratification. Career changes are expected. They are quite technologically proficient and prefer to communicate through text, IM and on-line media.

Do a simple Google search for lots more valuable and interesting reading on the subject!


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