Generation Who – A View of Generations in the Current Workplace

There is an exciting new phenomenon in the workplace – Four Generations, all working side by side, face to face and being challenged to communicate with each other and function as a productive team:

• Traditionalists / Matures
• Baby Boomers
• Generation X
• Generation Y / Millennials

Each generation has its own sociological influences of parenting, historic events, iconic characters, music and even clothing. Throw this “mixed bag” together and you have a melting pot of employees. To best understand this new workplace “atmosphere” and the communication struggles that have arisen, we need to explore and understand what makes each generation “tick”.

The Traditionalists / Matures – These individuals were born prior to 1945.

Unlike the other generations, their timeline stretches back 3 or 4 decades and so their influences vary greatly.

With the youngest Traditionalist nearing the age of 70 one generally does not find too many of them still in the workforce. For the purpose of this article we are going to explore the latter part of this generation.

It is understood Traditionalists have a very firm point of value and seek or expect respect and honesty from those they deal with. They tend to be patriotic, stable, loyal, and hardworking and value experience and quality.

The stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Korean War were major influences on this generation. A question from the younger generations – “Have you heard of e-mail?”

The Baby Boomers – Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.

Research has shown that Baby Boomers like to feel, look and act younger than their age. Some tend to view themselves as super moms and super dads. Face to face communication is a preference and relationships are important to them. For many, technology can be a challenge – electronic calculators were not part of their early work life. They used the old paper roll adding machines. Their word processor was a typewriter. There is a perception in the business world that Baby Boomers love showing their success which will show in the house they live in, the car they drive (a Lexus versus a Toyota), and the clothes they wear. The Vietnam War, The Beatles, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Woodstock, the Space Race and the first heart transplant were influences in the shaping of the lives of Baby Boomers. A question from the younger generations – “What’s with the comb over?”

Generation X – Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1979.

Historically they are well educated, adaptable, independent and creative. They seem to have no fear of new technology and are inclined to embrace it more for the business applications than the fun aspect. Xers can be sceptical about government and religion and prefer the “steak to the sizzle”. They have been known to buck the system and are inclined to lead their lives without boundaries. Xers were raised on TV infomercials and as a result like to thoroughly research all of their purchases. Influences in their lives include Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis, gas shortages, MTV, cable TV, the first Gulf War, the VCR, the CD player, personal computers, the Internet and the World Wide Web. Advice from other generations – “Be Cool and Chill”!

Millennials or Generation Y – Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000.

This generation comprise the largest generation since the Boomers. This group is the most technologically savvy of all the generations. Drive or walk by any bus stop and you will see them with headphones in their ears and looking intently at their smartphone. They are for the most part optimistic, tenacious, adept at change and the “kings and queens” of multitasking. Their parents tend to be their friends and many have been raised protected, praised and programmed. They continue to be influenced in the world of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other avenues of Social Media. Influences on this generation are the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 terrorist attack, the space shuttle crash, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Columbine, Harry Potter and Shrek.

A question from the other generations – “We would suggest that you adopt that phone?”

Generation? – Born after 2000

Within 5 years, the newest generation is going to hit the job market. Many names have been linked with this new cohort – from Generation Z to the Linksters. However, the intelligentsia of generational studies have yet to arrive at a name that suits. They feel that more time and study is needed in order to identify an official name. A college class I recently taught came up with the tag “Super Millennials” as they felt that this group was an improved version of the current Millennials. However, we will wait and see.

With this snapshot of the current four generations “Plus One” we can begin to understand the differences that are facing businesses as they are challenged to deal with this new dynamic. It will be interesting to observe how they best continue to create workplace harmony by melding these generations and their different points of reference. The clock keeps “Ticking”, and more “corporate fun” can be expected when the new bunch hit the workplace worldwide!

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