For the first time in history, we have four generations working side-by-side. While generational diversity creates challenges for many, it also brings together the strengths of each generation. Each generation has different characteristics, priorities, work styles, work ethics and values. Quite frankly, you can find article after article citing the challenges of interacting with four different generations in the workplace. However, today, I’d like to take a closer look at the connections between the generations.
We’ve heard about the typical stereotypes for each generation. Traditionalists are just that, too traditional and mistrustful of younger generations. Baby Boomers are workaholic “yuppies” with control tendencies or, alternately, free-loving “hippies.” Gen Xers are independent innovators with more loyalty to their profession than to their employer. Millennials are too fast, impatient, question everything and may not stick around for long.
|Traditionalists||Baby Boomers||Gen X||Millennials|
(over 71 yrs.)
|1945 – 1964|
|1965 – 1980|
(37 to 52)
|1981 – Present|
(up 36 yrs.)
Yes, we are all different but there are a lot of commonalities between us, too. Mercl and Lester conducted a survey to identify the similarities and differences between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. Seven out of the ten work values assessed showed significant similarities between all three generations. The seven values are:
- – Teamwork.
- – Flexible work arrangements.
- –Work-life balance.
- –Having a job that challenges.
- –A company that provides continual training and development opportunities.
- –Employee is involved in decision-making processes that affect employee’s work.
- –Being financially rewarded for the work employee does.
The three values that seem different to are:
- –An organization that values diversity.
- –Getting immediate feedback and recognition from a supervisor.
- – Career advancement opportunities within the company.
Okay, here we go, confession time. I’m the tail end of the Boomer generation. I have a lot of characteristics of both the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. However, in my exploration of generational differences, I have discovered connections to Gen Xers and Millennials in my own personal history. In my twenties and thirties, I had a lot of the characteristics of Millennials. I was extremely social, loved the latest technology, worked fast, was energetic, changed jobs every year or two and was continually learning. In my thirties and forties, I was managing a lot at once, multi-tasking was my life, I was very focused on growing my career and balancing it against my home/personal life. While I am still a Boomer, I can see parts of myself in younger generations and I see that I would never be where I am today if not for the guidance and coaching of Traditionalist mentors and leaders in my life.
As a Boomer, I ask my fellow Baby Boomers to remember how you got to where you are today and the challenges you overcame to get there. Coach and mentor the younger generations. Don’t just tell them what to do (hey, we never listened when we were “told” to do something so why would they, right?), help them understand and learn. Most of all, don’t let things like technology or communication styles get in the way.
As Gen Xers and Millennials, just remember that part of learning and growing is listening with the goal of understanding. Look to the leaders and experienced peers in your organization. Find out how they achieved their goals. Remember that, someday, you’ll be sitting in an office and complaining about those twenty-something’s that are moving too fast and more concerned with their social life than their work. I hope you’ll remember how someone helped you through your early career and pay it forward.
If you’d like to learn more or continue this dialogue contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org