The Clash of Generations in the Workplace

Topics: Generation Y, Strauss and Howe, Cultural generations Pages: 13 (4654 words) Published: October 11, 2010
The Clash of Generations in the Work Place
Discussions of workplace diversity predominantly encompass the topics of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. Generational differences, although not always included in these debates, are also part of the diversity that characterizes the contemporary labor force. For the first time in American history, we have four different generations working side-by-side in the work place. This study of the beliefs and values of the major generational groups and their attitudes to each other provides a thorough basis for understanding issues that are likely to arise in the workplace. It highlights the very different attitudes to work, life and the importance of life style between the generations, providing tools for dealing effectively with each generation and with the differences between them. Concerned primarily in how these differences impact on today's working life, but the sketches of each generation also provide insights into what may happen to work arrangements as different value systems become dominant. Growing up in a different era tends to make people see the world in a different way. Each generation has distinct priorities, attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits and motivational keys. At the workplace, the classical rules about older workers being the bosses and younger workers doing what were asked, are no longer the same. Diverse value systems, conflicting work ethics and different styles to getting things done, can create tension and affect work dynamics in several ways.

In today's work place, four generations leave their respective and largely differing home environments to go to work where the environment comprises a single organizational culture. Their collective birth dates span over sixty-five years. During their formative years, their experience with "leading edge technology" ranged from the introduction of black and white television to using hand-held computers nearly every hour of every day. Yet, while they possess myriad differences, they are each required to interact appropriately with each other and adhere to the organization's inherent values. How can leaders of these varied individuals recognize, acknowledge, understand, and maximize the benefits of the diversity that multiple generations bring to the workplace? How do we understand their true differences and the way those differences affect workplace behavior? How can leaders guide work teams to understanding the potential for high performance that diversity among generations brings to the workplace? The study of The Clash of Generations in the work place is intended to address these issues. Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Ys

The United States population currently numbers over three hundred million; 66 percent are aged fifteen to 65, the inclusive ages of the current workforce. To gain some control or understanding of this vast range in generations, many have neatly labeled twenty-year age spans into four generational descriptors: the Veterans, the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y [1]. These generational descriptors suggest that it is the year that one is born, and the early life experiences of a generation, that form one's values, preferences and work habits, leading each generation to demonstrate predictable behavior in today's workplace. There is some useful perspective in understanding the historical upbringings of a generation. For example, today’s senior Americans who were born prior to World War II and who Participated either on the battlefield or in the factories at home during the war, are seen as civic-minded and altruistic due to their military service or upbringing during the Great Depression. They volunteer for any cause and have gladly gone the extra mile for the good of their country. Further, each generational cohort has unique descriptors that help "explain" why they act the way they do in today's workforce. Equally pithy descriptions of the Baby...

References: Generations At Work, Zemke, Raines, Filipczak, 2000
When Generations Collide, Lancaster and Stillman, 2002
Millennials Rising, Howe, Strauss, 2000
Geezers, grungers, gen-Xers and geeks-a look at workplace generational conflict, Tony Diromualdo, 8/14/06
The Fourth Turning, Strauss and Howe, 1997
How Veterans, Baby boomers, Generation Xers and Generation Nexters Can All Get Along in the Workplace, Zemke, Raines, Filipczak, 2006
Magazine 46 no. 4 (2001): 192; and R. Zemke, C. Raines and B. Filipczak, “Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace,” (New York: American Management Association, 2000).
[2] B. Sago, “Uncommon Threads,” Business Credit 103, no. 6 (June 2001): 57-59; M. Kogan, “Bridging the Gap Across the Generation Divide in the Federal Workforce,” Government
Executive 33, no
York: HarperBusiness, 2002); B. Sago, “Uncommon Threads,” Business Credit 103, no. 6 (June
2001): 57-59; and R
Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace,” (New York: American
Management Association, 2000).
[3] N. Howe and W. Strauss, “Millennials Rising: The Next Generation” (New York: Vintage Books, 2000).
Year of Employment,” Human Resource Development Quarterly 15, no. 1 (2004): 5-24.
[6] Big Grab for the Graduates. (1955, May 14). Newsweek, p. 93-94.
[7] W. Strauss and N. Howe, “Generations: The History of America 's Future 1584 to 2069,”(New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1991).
[8] Blessing and White, “Helping Others Succeed Program,” November 10, 2006,
[10] J. R. Katzenbach and D. K. Smith, “The Wisdom of Teams” (New York: Harper Business,1993).
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