Generational ideologies have been a common place in human society since the dawn of time. But since the 1950s, people have begun to pay much more attention to each succeeding generations. Members from the Baby Boomers, to Generation X, to Generation Y have played a major role in various facets in today’s society. At this time in human history, various generations are all present and active in the same space/time in the workforce. Work organizations are more sensitive to issues of diversity in race, culture, and gender. Policies and programs have been developed to protect and to promote diversity.
Generational diversity has yet to be addressed in the boardroom, factory floor, or in the classroom. For many years, organizations, scientists, and the media have discussed the conflicts and successes, as well as, the strengths and weaknesses of the multigenerational workforce. As the global marketplace expands, the talents of all generations can be utilized. The purpose of this paper is discuss various character traits, belief systems, and ideology of several generations. This paper will explore the various instances in which these generations interact and also collide in work and societal situations. Baby Boomers (Born 1946 -1964)
The media has portrayed the Baby Boomer Generation in many lights. Increases education, finances and social opportunities, have facilitated the Boomer Generation with a generation of optimism, exploration and achievement. In comparison to previous generations, Boomers, as young adults, pursued higher education or relocated away from family to pursue career and educational interests. In Kim Campbell’s (2005) article for the Christian Science Monitor titled “The Many Faces of Baby Boomers”, during the late 1940s and early 1950s, post-war optimism inspired a sense of stability, opportunity and prosperity—values commonly held by the middle class.
The dawn of space exploration, accessible long-distance travel and prosperity for many Americans started becoming prevalent in the rearing of Baby Boomers. However, with increasing racial tensions in the United States, the emergence of the Vietnam War, as well as the self-exploration and peace movement of the 1960s (Campbell, 2005). The collective identity of the Boomer Generation became more complex (Campbell, 2005). Though the Boomer Generation saw increasing social and economic equality, they were also torn by differing views on politics, war and social justice.
The Baby Boomer Generation witnessed and participated in some of the greatest social changes in the country’s history during the 1960s and 1970s with the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement (Campbell, 2005). This generation experienced dramatic shifts in educational, economic and social opportunities. The face of the workplace began evolving from a fairly racially exclusive environment to one with increased racial and gender diversity. The workplace slowly began to reflect the increasing political and social changes of the country.
Many believe that the Baby Boomer generation’s place in the workforce should be limited as aging increases. But many are unaware of the characteristics that the Baby Boomer generation has brought to the workforce to make it thrive for the overall success of any organization. Some general characteristics of Baby Boomer workers can be organized into three categories: values, attributes, and work styles. Under the values category it is a widely held belief that Baby Boomers believe in individual choice, community involvement, prosperity, ownership, self-actualizing, and health & wellness.
The next category consist of multiple attributes. Some attributes that characterize baby boomer workers are adaptive, goal-oriented, focus on individual choices and freedom, adaptive to a diverse workplace, and positive attitude. The final category that describes the baby boomer worker is work style. Some work style characteristics are confidence in tasks, emphasize team-building, seek collaborative group decision-making, and avoid conflict. Baby Boomers are more experienced in ethical and cultural issues than any proceeding generations.
Although this generation was actively involved in promoting equal rights among race and gender, they did not totally accomplish the struggles of their youth. Differences in income and educational levels remain largely unchanged for Baby Boomers. As Baby Boomers age, differences in income and personal wealth might become more noticeable, and a greater poverty levels among minority members might persist due to lack of opportunities or fiscal understanding. The difference in mentality and ethics would be extremely tested as the next generation has come into its own. Generation X (Born 1965-1980)
As Baby Boomers had the opportunity to grow with the world that was growing around them, Generation X had to mature faster because of the world would not afford them the same luxury. As illustrated in Zemke, Raines, and Filipczak’s book, “Generations at Work,” Generation X was pushed toward adulthood at an age earlier than any other recent generation. Whereas Baby Boomers came to understand that the future was theirs for the taking, Generation X felt the future had been given to their parents and older siblings and found the future disappointing and somewhat unappealing (p. 96).
While Baby Boomers whined about the long lines for gas in the mid-1970s, Generation X-ers watched from the back seat wondering what the future held (p. 97). Just like the malls, shopping centers and office buildings they would come to work in and the videos they would rent, everything appeared secondhand and pre-viewed. Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X-ers grew up in an era of emerging technology, and political and institutional incompetence. Watergate, Three Mile Island, the Iranian hostage crisis, Challenger disaster, and the Rodney King verdict mark the emergence of this generation.
Microfiche machines turned into high-speed copiers, rotary home phones turned into the early cellular phones, and heavy adding machines were replaced with handheld calculators. Whereas computers were the size of whole buildings for the Traditional Generation, or as some refer to them as Veterans, and whole rooms for Baby Boomers, the computer now became a desktop appliance. Generation X-ers spent less time with their parents than previous generations of children had. First recognized as “latchkey kids”, this generation found themselves home alone and taking care of themselves and their siblings, while their parents worked (p. 8). Divorce was common. They were not coddled for every emotional need and want (p. 98). Generation X-ers learned that their parents were human and fallible and often found themselves treating their parents like older friends.
Autonomy and self-reliance, rather than respect for authority, was a natural byproduct of the Generation X childhood (p. 98). Generation X-ers learned independence early in life and turned it into a valuable hallmark as they progressed in the working world. Just as Generation X-ers were about to hit the workforce to make their mark in the world, the economic decline at the end of the 1980s occurred (p. 7). Suddenly the future looked crowded and competition for jobs were tight. The American dream had changed. For the first time in history, this generation was being told that they would not be able to replicate the lifestyles of their Baby Boomer cousins and parents. Ungraciously dubbed the “boomerang generation,” many Generation X-ers were forced to move back in with parents while in their 20s. In the workforce, Generation X-ers value contribution, feedback & recognition, and autonomy. Generation X-ers attributes include but are not limited to adaptability and independence.
Lastly, the work style of Generation X-ers includes high-quality end results, productivity, balance between work & life [i. e. work to live not live to work], flexible work hours, free agents, technically competent, and ethnic diversity (p. 98). Advancements in technology and exposure to music television brought different cultures into the living rooms of this generation. Single-parent and blended families helped this generation understand that families come in all shapes and sizes. More inclusive of others and accepting of differences from themselves or their experiences, this generation is accepting and embracing of diversity.
Generation Y (Born 1981-2001) Generation Y, also referred to as the New Boomers, Millennials and Generation Next, are now entering the workforce in droves and will shape and transform an organization. Members of Generation Y place high importance on interdependence and creativity, and they are less inclined to settle for work that is not in line with their values (Nelson & Quick, 2015, p. 25). As the generational and cultural landscape is changing, so is the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Basic rights such as the right to vote, right to purchase, the right to consume alcohol, and the transition from college to the workforce once signified the move between adolescences to adulthood. In an article published by Dr. Jeffrey Arnett (2002) in the American Psychologist titled “The Psychology of Globalization”, the idea of emerging adulthood is discussed. Emerging adulthood is the period between adolescence and adulthood, typically between ages 18 to 25, in which individuals are no longer fully dependent but are not yet fully self-sufficient, with the full responsibilities and independence of adulthood (p. 80).
This developmental period is characterized by self-exploration, experimentation and promise (p. 781). Born between 1983 and 2001, Generation Y workers have grown up in an expansive era in technology. They have always known cable television, cellular phones, pagers, answering machines, laptop computers, video games, but might not know about rotary telephones phones. Technological advancements have made life virtually accessible in numerous platforms. This technological accessibility has driven the need for immediacy unlike any other generation before Generation Y.
Where Baby Boomers made the future what they wanted, Generation X-ers found the reality of a future complicated, and Generation Y questioned whether a future will exist. Slogans such as “Live for today” and “Just Do It” have illustrated the overall attitude and belief system of Generation Y. Generation Y’s Baby Boomer parents have pampered, nurtured, and catered to their every want and need. As identified by Nelson/Quick (2015) textbook, parents of Generation Y workers have praised and rewarded their children for minimal effort and have an inflated self-esteem with an exaggerated belief that anything is possible.
As a result, these young workers have high expectations of recognition and reward from others with minimal effort on their part (p. 25). These young workers have close relationships with their parents, often continuing to live with them and to be supported by them to some extent as they enter the workforce (p. 24). These young workers seek their parents’ advice and approval and look to managers and supervisors to provide the same nurturing protection, advice and approval as their parents have.
It is believed that Generation Y spent a good deal of time watching as their parents’ successes and failures with the cognizant knowledge of never wanting to be in such a situation controlled by others. For this generation, work is temporary and unreliable (p. 25). They are less committed to an employer, and will leave to purse frivolous notions and ideologies. In some respect, this group is opportunistic and will job hop to meet their immediate wants, needs and goals (p. 67). Generation Y workers have grown up with exposure to various racial, ethnic and cultural differences.
These young workers prefer to work with others and are easily appreciative of diversity. Workplace Dynamics In their book Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace (2000), authors Zemke, Raines and Filipczak describe it as “diversity management at its most challenging. ” Each generation has had an impact of the overall landscape of the workplace. The question has always been to what extent is the generational interaction being an assets or a liability to any organization.
With a preference for face-to-face interaction, conflict avoidance and consensus decision making and a tendency toward self-absorption, Baby Boomers created office politics (p. 68). Opposed to the command-and-control management styles of their bosses from earlier generations, Baby Boomers ushered in group decision making and a focus on the process, not the policy or procedure (p. 71). Valuing personal gratification and seeking high achievement, Boomers provide the energy to get a project and team noticed.
They will dedicate 100 percent of themselves to what they perceive to be the project at hand and will expect nothing less from anyone else (p. 78). The workplace challenges for this group are less likely to be related to team building and group decision making. In addition to the workplace issues facing the general employee population, the Baby Boomer worker will more likely struggle at work with: the nontraditional work styles of Generation X and Generation Y, technology replacing human interaction, sharing praise and rewards, balancing work and family, and practicing what they preach (p. 0). The nontraditional attitudes toward work that Generation X members characteristically hold may create a perception that these employees have engagement and attendance problems (pg. 100). Generation X has learned that personal loyalty and commitment to a company does not translate into job security. Companies with entrenched management practices that focus on time on the job are not ideal for Generation X-ers.
Companies with rigid organizational structure and hierarchies, that stress quantity over quality, and that discount work/family balance will not work for most Generation X-ers, these observations can translate into conflict with co-workers and management, and lead to job turnover. Cross-generational conflict, especially with Baby Boomer managers, is not uncommon. As illustrated in the Organization Behavior textbook by Quick and Nelson on page 25 (2015), Boomers with their micromanaging style and aversion to conflict can clash with Gen X-ers who may be more direct and unskilled in conflict management.
Generation Y, whose members need more time for supervision and understanding of the workplace, compete with Gen X-ers’ need for connection to their managers. In Generation X, we see a highly independent, outspoken, adaptable and fearless group of employees who can move your company forward with their ability to lead by example, their competence and their willingness to take risks necessary for corporate growth (p. 114).
The workplace challenges for this roup are less likely to be related to independent project management or leadership. In addition to the workplace issues facing the general employee population, the Gen X worker will more likely struggle at work with (pgs. 123-124, 146): •career development •conflict resolution and office politics •multigenerational team projects •balancing work and family Generation Y has been described as the best educated generation—and they know it. However, the quality of the education isn’t always reflected in grammar and spelling.