Every person is a product of his or her environment, so it’s no surprise that the modern work place (consisting of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y) is a complex mixture of varied work expectations, values, and degrees of tech savviness. Because of this diversity, a clear cut balance needs to be adapted in order for an office containing all three generations to thrive.
Before that happens, we need to truly understand each generation.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 & 1964, came of age during the early days of the Cold War. As they entered the workforce, they combined their parents’ work ethic with their own budding idealism in hopes of making the world a better place. As a group, Baby Boomers are loyal to a fault. Most are eager to trust their employer and only move to other companies to escape truly reprehensible conditions. For that reason, they respect hierarchy and most decide to climb the corporate ladder from within the company they start with.
Though they’ve been around for major advancements in the workplace, most jumps in business technology occurred after they had already entered the work force. Widespread computer use, cell phones, wireless networks, and The Cloud are all technologies they have adapted to after their formative years. To Baby Boomers, face to face is still the best way for office interactions. The entire idea of telecommuting to the office or remote access is well outside of their wheelhouse.
Generation X, born between 1965 & 1981, saw the rise of two income & single parent families. With their Baby Boomer parents drawn into their work lives, young Gen Xers became independent at a much younger age. They possess a natural self-sufficiency and are resourceful enough to work their way out of any problem. On meaningful challenges, they will relentlessly work to achieve a solution but they are not blindly loyal. They consider themselves free agents and are more than willing to leave a job for a better opportunity.
Unlike the Baby Boomer Generation, most members of Generation X were introduced to digital technology before entering into the workforce. They are drawn to new technology and eagerly pursue any skill that can increase their marketability. Primarily, Gen Xers use technology as a means to end, focusing on how technology as a tool can enhance their lives outside of the digital world.
Generation Y, born between 1982 & 1994, is focused on following their own path. From a young age, the Millennial generation has been told they can do whatever they want by their highly supportive and engaged parents. In most cases, their adolescence was jam packed with scheduled events and technological distractions, making multitasking second nature. On the job, they are focused on achievement more than money, and will only stick around if they feel they are contributing to important tasks. When they work on projects, they expect to have regular feedback to make sure that they are going along the right path.
Having played around with technology from a very young age, the Millennials can instinctively navigate new, high tech equipment without any major learning curve. They passionately immerse themselves in new technology, not only to build their professional skill sets but to enhance every facet of their lives. Generation Y quickly turns to the internet for knowledge, networking, social interaction, and entertainment. Technology is ingrained in every part of their life, so don’t expect them to shut off when they get into the workplace.
Put them together and what do you get?
Working with individuals from multiple generations may seem like a daunting task because no single structure will keep all three generations satisfied on the job. Millennials may love regular input, but Generation Xers might become suspicious of this overinvolved style. Implementing telecommuting options may cause Baby Boomers to feel isolated, but going without them will upset Millennials who feel most comfortable utilizing the full power of the Internet.
To maximize the potential of this hodgepodge culture, a flexible structure needs to be in place. An implacable management style directed toward any one group will alienate more employees than it will inspire. Most importantly, the focus of the office should be on its goals, not the means in which individual workers get there.
The most important thing to do is create a team that understands the strengths of each generation. Encourage older employees to mentor younger ones in ways that promote intergenerational understanding and collaboration. Break down stereotypical walls: Millennials are not lazy, Gen Xers are not disloyal, and Baby Boomers are not stuck in the past. Only when the team realizes that they are all pursuing the same goals, albeit by different methods, can an office reach its potential.
It is also crucial to remember that not all individuals are the same, and relying on the overview of an entire generation to predict the actions of a single employee can often be as reliable as looking at that employee’s horoscope to predict his or her work behaviors. Bottom line: get to know your team. Only then can you customize the proper work environment to fit their needs.
For more resources, check out this article.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 at 11:10 am and is filed under Job Search, Workplace Resources. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
The conversation continues:
“Of course,” continued the older woman, “after we were done patting ourselves on the back for saving diapers and razors, we belched coal dust into the air from our homes and factories. We put phosphorus in our detergent and lead in our paint to make our things shinier, and sprayed DDT on our fields and orchards to rid us of bugs and birds. Our industrial and agricultural waste we dumped in the river to let nature wash it away.
“We threw our garbage in dumps and landfills, and when those grew too big or too noxious, we loaded that garbage onto barges to be dumped in the ocean. Out of sight, out of mind, am I right?
We invented celluloid, Bakelite and other synthetic materials because we were running out of animals whose horns and bones we could carve into billiard balls and hairbrushes. In fact, it was my generation who invented the whole artificial, disposable culture of convenience I was just crabbing about. From frozen foods to chemical preservatives to spray cans that put a continent-sized hole in the ozone layer, we cheerfully bought into anything “new and improved” that relieved us of the drudgery of cooking, cleaning, daily grocery shopping and having worn-out things repaired.
“We turned our prairies into pavement, our rolling hills into strip mines and our green forests into factories and mills. Then we went abroad and razed the rainforests to make rubber tires and fan belts to keep our machines running.
“When someone like Henry David Thoreau or John Muir or Theodore Roosevelt or Rachel Carson implored us to conserve our land and our water for future generations, many of us laughed and said, let those future generations fend for themselves, we’ve got railroads and highways to build, oil wells to drill and toxic waste to dump. To us, if you were overly concerned with how we were polluting the earth and sky and water, you were not ‘green’, you were a damn hippie.
“I guess what I’m saying is that every generation could have done - and still can do - a better job in preserving and protecting our environment and that no generation has a monopoly on virtue.”
To which the young cashier replied, “Now you're getting it, Grandma. Have a nice day!”