In today’s workplaces, we find individuals at more stages of life than ever before. With retirements being delayed it is not unusual to find four generations working together, side by side.
But while they work together, each generation approaches work in different ways for different reasons. This causes management challenges that today’s managers must be equipped to handle. In this paper, we will explore these differences and how to address them.
So what is a generation? A generation is a group of people who experience a common set of formative events. While they experience them differently based on a variety of factors, they do have certain commonalities. The events that occur in a person’s teen years shape what we value, how we measure success, who to trust and what are our priorities.
Profiles of the Generations
There are four main generations in the workforce today: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials (often called Generation Y). We will look at what makes each of these generations unique.
The Traditionalists in your workforce are those individuals born between 1928 and 1945. If you remember you history lessons, they were born into a time of scarcity and war. During their formative years their parents were talking about the Great Depression, men returning from war, and rebuilding. The television shows they watched included Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best showing the core family with very specific roles.
Growing up at this time gave them strong feelings of loyalty to companies and wanting to be secure. When they started with a company, they expected to be there for the rest of their career. Typically they will cling to the old ways of doing things and look for specific direction on how things are done. The Traditionalists don’t understand the concept of work/life balance because it has always been in balance; they work from start to end of their shift and go home. Traditionalists don’t take work home or expect to be on call.
Because of their upbringing, they will be very hard workers and often work through illness and vacations. While they appreciate praise, they aren’t expecting rewards for a job well done. They are often fine with waiting until the end of their career for recognition and praise – the proverbial “gold watch”.
Traditionalists are usually self-managing and can be trusted to get the job done. Working with those of younger generations can be a challenge as they don’t recognize why younger generations are the way they are but with education comes understanding.