In Harmony

Managing a Multi-generational Workplace

By Jeff Vanek | Illustration by Mike Bohman

August 9, 2013

Other common clashes of values and culture that many employers have noticed is that the younger generation often lacks a sense of loyalty to an organization, along with an entitlement attitude. For example, many of the human resource professionals interviewed for this article say the younger generation often has an expectation of quick advancement based on their knowledge of technology verses experience.

A clearly defined career path can help overcome this tension. “Get the younger generations excited about the future, give them a reason to want to stay,” says Thomas. The desire to improve and learn is a hallmark of the Millennials, so a clearly defined career path combined with a mentoring program that supports an employee’s growth and career development may help them envision a long-term future with the company. 

My Generation

Each generational group is defined by the shared life experiences that shape their worldviews, personal values and work ethic. The specific years that define each group varies by a year or so, depending on the source.

The Traditionalist or Silent Generation is made up of people born between the years 1928 and 1945. The title of “silent” refers to their typically conformist attitudes. This generation grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. They rebuilt the American economy by having faith in, and working with, the social institutions that existed. They are known for having a strong work ethic. Most of this generation has retired but it is possible to see a few of them still working due to financial needs or just wanting to stay active.

Baby Boomers are the children of the Traditionalists. Boomers got their title from the large spike in fertility between the years 1946—right after the end of World War II—and 1964, when birthrates dramatically decreased (coinciding with birth control becoming widely available). Boomers grew up in economically prosperous times. They have a reputation for being workaholics with difficulty balancing home and work life. At the same time, they are often spiritual and seek personal growth and self-improvement. This generation makes up a great deal of the senior leadership positions in today’s workplace.

Generation X, also called the Me Generation, consists of the generation between 1965 and 1980. They came of age during a period of hard economic times and soaring national debt. Their experience has taught them that there are no guarantees in life, which makes them more skeptical, often asking “why” to better understand decisions, plans or processes. They are often portrayed as savvy and entrepreneurial loners. People in this generation are now well into their careers, poised to take over leadership positions as the Baby Boomers retire.

The Millennials, Generation Y or Generation Next refers to those born between 1981 and 2000, making them the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. As a cohort, they are the largest generational group in U.S. history—even surpassing the Boomers in numbers. They tend to crave change and are adaptive. They are loyal to ideas and values but not, and often notoriously, loyal to employers. They are also viewed as job hoppers, who dislike bureaucracy and don’t trust traditional hierarchies. They are ethnically more diverse than previous generations and have a global perspective.


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