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Managing Generational Gaps in the Workplace

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Managing Generational Gaps in the Workplace

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  • September 15, 2011
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The modern workplace is full of diversity, with a variety of ethnicities, races, religions and genders. Of particular importance in recent times, however, is diversity in regards to generational differences, due to issues including our ageing workforce and the increasing number of “Milennials” entering the working arena (Smola & Sutton 2002). Managers need to be aware of, and actively manage, the generational differences amongst their employees in order to increase productivity, morale and employee retention (Gursoy et al. 2008), contributing to greater efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace. The term ‘generation’ refers to people born in the same general time span who share a distinct set of values and attitudes as a result of shared events and experiences (Macky et al. 2008; Smola & Sutton 2002). There seems to be disagreement as to the exact definition of generational groups, in terms of the years in which they were born (Parry & Urwin 2011); however, there has emerged a general consensus regarding the two most prevalent generational groups in the workplace – the Baby Boomers (or Boomers), born between 1943-60, and Generation X (or GenXers), born between 1961-80 (Gursoy et al. 2008). The Millennial generation, born between 1981-2000, is also increasingly entering the workforce; however, the focus of this paper will revolve around the Boomers and GenXers, as these two generational groups currently represent the majority of the workplace (Gursoy et al. 2008). Employees from the same generation are likely to share similar norms, and thus it can be expected that their values and attitudes towards work are likely to be impacted by the generation to which they belong (Parry & Urwin 2011; Macky et al. 2008; Smola & Sutton 2002). This ‘generational personality’ contributes to determining what individuals want from work and the kind of workplace atmosphere that they prefer (Gursoy et al. 2008). Benson and Brown (2011) outline how the Boomers grew up...