Managing Generational Gaps in the Workplace

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 106
  • Published: September 15, 2011
Read full document
Text Preview
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 in a period of increasing affluence and economic prosperity, contributing to their strong beliefs in lifetime employment and loyalty to one’s company. Further, the early life experiences of Boomers explain their determination that achievement comes after paying dues and their belief in sacrifice in order to achieve success (Benson & Brown 2011). Gursoy et al. (2008) recognise that Boomers expect their loyalty to the company to be rewarded through promotions and rewards, based on seniority. Boomers are often resistant to change, and many find the speed at which technology has changed the nature of the workplace daunting (Gursoy et al. 2008). In contrast, GenXers were born into a rapidly changing social climate with great financial and societal insecurity, fuelling a sense of individualism over collectivism. Consequently, GenXers place less emphasis on company loyalty, seeking out more individualistic motives and desires (Benson & Brown 2011; Jurkiewicz 2000). GenXers value autonomy and freedom from supervision (Jurkiewicz 2000), do not have long-term loyalty to the company and believe in balancing work-life objectives (Benson & Brown 2011). Whereas Boomers have often defined themselves by their careers, GenXers view work as just a job, depicting the perceived importance of work to each generation (Smola & Sutton, 2002). Unlike the Boomers, GenXers tend to be very impatient, and they are not willing to wait their turn for bonuses and promotions; they expect immediate recognition (Gursoy et al. 2008). In terms of technology, GenXers tend to be very ‘tech-savvy’, and are comfortable with the increasing introduction of new technologies in the workplace. Thus it is clear that in the workplace, an employee’s attitudes and values towards work may be quite distinct from earlier generations of workers. Although there are benefits of generational blending, including the availability of different perspectives and ways of thinking, there is great potential for...
tracking img