Generations in the Workplace

As part of my networking strategies, I attend Omaha Morning Rotary. We meet Tuesdays at 7am at Happy Hollow Country Club.  Lisa was a speaker this last week, and I asked her to write a guest blog.

 

Generations in the Workplace.  Let’s Stop All the Name Calling!

Lisa Lackovic-Endicott Clay Products LLC, Fairbury, NE

 

There is a lot of name calling going on in the workplace these days.  You can hear the seething words whispered under the breaths of seasoned employees …“Slackers!”  And the harsh words of criticism coming from entry level young professionals…“Old Farts!”  Yes, it’s true.  What we have here is a failure to communicate. 

For the first time in history, there are four generations in the workplace…and we don’t always see eye to eye.  Every generation comes with its own set of rules, values and perspectives that have developed as they matured.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 40% of Human Resource Managers reported conflicts due to “generational differences.”  The first complaint is Work Ethic.  You can hear it now from the 55 year old Boomer:  “He comes in late and leaves early every day!  He needs to get his priorities straight!”  The second most heard complaint HR Managers report is Work-Life Balance.  Can you hear the 35 year old Gen X? “I can get so much more work done from home on my own time!  Why do I have to report every morning at 8 and stay until 5?  I don’t need a babysitter!”  And the argument goes on and on.  These differences can negatively affect a company in many ways including miscommunication, low morale and poor productivity.

Once we understand each generation’s values and perspectives, communication becomes much easier.  Once we begin to communicate, morale will improve in the workplace. Let’s review some of the characteristics of each generation. 

Traditionalists: Born 1925-1945

  • Conservative
  • Fiscally responsible
  • Respect authority
  • Dependable
  • Loyal
  • Patriotic
  • Experienced the Great Depression and World War II

This generation is also referred to as the Silent Generation because they did not question authority.  They did what they were told and did not ask questions.  There are 68 million Traditionalists.  Many have retired now but the company they worked for still defines them. 

 

Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964

  • Ambitious
  • Materialistic
  • Grew up in a time of affluence and privilege
  • Believe in the American Dream
  • Don’t want to grow old
  • Vocal 
  • Experienced Social Change: Woodstock-Beatlemania-Vietnam

This generation is 78 million strong.  Early Boomers, born 1946-54 are referred to War Babies because they were born after the end of World War II and loudly protested the Vietnam War.  Late Boomers were born 1955-64 are referred to as the Me Generation and Generation Jones due to their interest in an upscale lifestyle and living beyond their means to keep up with their fellow Boomers. Their career defines them.

 

Gen Xers: Born 1965-1980

  • Techno savvy
  • Educated
  • Multi taskers
  • Life – Work balance
  • Skeptical and untrusting of authority and want access to information
  • Independent -Don’t want to be micro managed
  • Entrepreneurs: Xers created Google, Yahoo, Amazon, YouTube and Wikipedia

This generation is also referred to as Baby Busters since there are only 48 million of them.  Many spent a lot of time alone as latch key kids and prefer to work independently.  Gen Xers watched their parents get divorced and/or downsized and refuse to let this happen to them.  They put family first and will not compromise their personal beliefs for a company.  They will go direct to the upper management if they have an issue. Their technology defines them.

 

Generation Y:  Born 1981 – 2000

  • Protected, pampered, privileged
  • Confident
  • Non-confrontational
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Environmentally concerned-frugal
  • Strong morals
  • Diversity is accepted and expected 
  • Social Networking –Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Skype
  • Techno Teenpreneurs – Instagram, Snapchat

Generation Y can also be referred to as Echo Boomers because their parents are most likely Boomers.  They are the largest generation with 80 million just waiting to move up in the company.  Their parents did everything possible to make their lives comfortable and many expect the same lifestyle.  They are also called Boomerangs because of the trend for many to live at home due to financial burden they may have experienced with college loans and the high unemployment rate.  They work well in groups due to their experiences in school and sports. Their cell phone defines them.

 

So now that we have insight to the four generations in the workplace, it is understandable that many struggle getting along with such unique backgrounds and interests.  What can you do to open the lines of communication with your coworker and create a better working relationship?  Find common ground.  Keep the company goals in mind and have some fun.  Take interest in the different generations and ask questions about their hobbies or family. If you want to light a fire with a Gen Y…ask them about their cell phone or the latest application they have downloaded.  If you want to connect with a Traditionalist, ask them about the company history.  They are a wealth of information.  Boomers will love to share their career story and how the workplace has changed over the years and Gen Xers will have several suggestions on technology that will make the workplace better.

 

Each generation brings something to the table.  We all have talents and ideas that should be heard and respected.  It is time we embrace the fact that every company has different generations that are valuable to the bottom line.  Once we accept that we are all on the same team, we can achieve success in the workplace…without all the name calling.  After all, Generation Z is only a few years away from joining us at the conference table…

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