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feature of the contemporary workplace is the convergence of, and collision among, traditional and new talents from four different time zones: the Greatest Generation of World War II in the 40s and the 50s; the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964; Generation X individuals born between 1964 and 1976; and Generation Y individuals born between 1976 and 1995. With different orientations and meeting in common grounds, the problem is how to set them together to produce their generational best without sacrificing corporate objectives and hurting anyone's rights or point-of-view. In other words, how to manage the generations' wide differences in the workplace without tilting the balance towards any particular side or sector.
Let us take a good look at these generations in the labor market. The Greatest Generation on top of the ladder consists of those born before 1946 are the brave souls of World War II who very capably established the robust American economy in the 40s and the 50s in a corporate culture of opportunity, healthy competition and leadership. (Martin 2000). Coming next and closely are the so-called Baby Boomers who are puzzled as to what has been happening in their once comfortably predictable workplace. They are those who openly resist and are outspoken against the unsettling effects of globalization, technology, downsizing and reengineering (Martin), but most of whom are nonetheless able to adjust to the changes through flexibility, technological know-how and business sense or entrepreneurial skills. Generation X follows and is composed of those born between 1964 and 1976, an era characterized by dreary job market, a soaring national debt, the Gulf war and scanty opportunities that combine to shape their world view (Sujansky 2001).They were the focus of issues in the early and mid-90s and are a relatively small group with only 45 million members (Wallace 2001), but who nevertheless brought about significant changes during their time. And the last and most recent entrant is Generation Y, a conglomeration of those born between 1976 and 1995, and, in combination with Generation X, consists of "free agents" who are a shock and an object of disappointment to the more senior members of the workforce.
Each of these four generations is in the race and racing through the same fast-paced business environment, but each is conducting the race in its own way and perspective. The conflict that emanates is not about respecting one another's values or about mutual tolerance. Respect for values and maximum tolerance of the others can work only to a point. (Martin) All the generations are in a common race and confronting the same realities of a fast-paced, high-technology, global, very competitive and unpredictable economy (Martin) Being in the same boat and posed before the exact realities in common, how these distinct generations that collide, bruise and even disadvantage one another can be made to translate this damaging condition from a weakness to strength is the challenge.
Let us have a clearer and scientific or statistical profile of each generation in order to achieve this end. A survey of 400 professionals throughout the U.S. was conducted to establish the similarities and differences among workers of these different generations. (Gawel 1999) The subjects were taken from different age groups and both sexes, with a margin of error at +/- 4%. Survey shows that representatives of Baby Boomers, Generations X and Y share similar work values worth looking into. Media often attribute exceptional energy and initiative to Generation Yers, but statistics show that 68% of Generation Yers are "happier to be team players than as individual contributors." (Gawel). This was shared by 69% of Generation Xers and 67% of Baby Boomers. They view the presence or occurrence of loyalty in the workplace in comparative and concurring ways, whereby 84% of them rated co-workers as loyal and 95% rated themselves as very loyal. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, view themselves as workaholics at 30%, which only 19% of the Gen Yers and only 13% of the Gen Xers claim for themselves. Among these self-proclaimed workaholics, 90% said it is their natural drive that leads them to push towards success, with a diminutive 10% doing so for a higher salary. (Gawel). Gen Xers point to their paychecks as the strongest motivation to work long hours twice as much as the other generations. This owes to their having been subjected to very troubled economic times of their adolescence and youth, such as rabid corporate downsizing, the stock market crash of 1987 and the 1990 and 1991 recessions. (Gawel)
These generations work hard for different motivations: taskmaster management at 20% is behind the Baby Boomers' long working hours, with only 9% of Yers and 6% of Xers. And about the same number is each generational camp will leave their job for another and better job and boss whom they can admire: 21% of Baby Boomers, 26% of Yers and 22% of Xers. (Gawel)
Baby Boomers and Yers were three times likelier to be content with their salaries as Xers, maybe because these youngest ones (the Yers) have not realized their earning peak yet. Most of them in all generations would leave current employments for a higher salary elsewhere: 78% for Xers, 63% for Yers and 55% for boomers, should there be a chance for them. About leaving present employers, 27% agreed. These consisted of 34% of Xers, 29% of Yers and 19% of Baby Boomers. And about traveling elsewhere to work, 62% of Xers willing to leave country for abroad for more challenging duties. Statistics furthermore reveal that 46% and 37% of Baby Boomers and 37% of Gen Yers would leave for new jobs, respectively. (Gawel)
On the whole, the study concludes that the three subject generations may have differed in the nature and level of salary satisfaction and job opportunities, but they share common views and preferences in the more essential matters of ethics, loyalty and work styles. (Gawel)
Of the three, Baby Boomers are the most numerous at almost 80 million. (Wallace 2001), followed immediately by Gen Y with 70+ millions and not too closely by Gen X with less than 50 million. Gen Y's numbers in the workplace tell us the expanse of its influence - Yers have a mind-set of its own about what the ideal path should be and are not dying to go up the corporate ladder. Girl Ys, for example, are not too thrilled about corporate life but mostly prefer public service careers or open some small business. (Wallace) Moreover, Yers have different expectations when they begin working. They are unusually confident in demanding higher salaries and other benefits. Despite these advantages, they soon discover when they begin working that they too have to start at the base just like their predecessors did, and then end up acknowledging the truth that they must learn a lot before they can assume higher and more responsible positions and functions. And in contrast with Gen X which experienced the loss of life time employment. Gen Yers have what is termed a short-term perspective, whereby they begin working with the assumption that they will change jobs frequently.. And this they do without a definite purpose of developing themselves in their first jobs in that initial organization. (Wallace) Managers and executives should expect Gen Yers to reshape the workplace, as did their predecessors in their own time. The corporate zodiac predicts Gen Yers as infusing technical skills, strong entrepreneurial values, deep social consciousness and a healthy brand of inquisitiveness into the workplace.
By the time Gen Y starts working, Gen X shall have seemed stale, what with a fast-paced work and social environment. (Sujansky) Gen Yers simply have a different face and phase and that is quickly apparent. Work values established by the preceding Gen X are familiar: quick work satisfaction, technology and independence. (Sujansky) They assumed nontraditional career directions and balanced work with life, what with sharp economic straits in the early 90s during which they had to settle for temporary employments such as restaurant buzzing and serving, as well as quaint jobs beyond the purview of their training and indoctrination. This sets the definite difference they have with Gen Y. This incoming and freshly-baked generation did not do through the economic bruises and thus expect to succeed right away. (Wallace) We do not need un-enlightened aspiration, but we do need their 100% raw and diffused energy to do the work. (Wallace) If Gen X introduced multitasks, Gen Y is perfecting these tasks. This current generation is an uneasy crop, always looking for something new and exciting. Even its energy transforms into a kind of vigor different from Gen X's that provides the friction between them. The Yers think the Xers are lazy and garrulous, while Xers think the Yers are arrogantly demanding of entitlements they do not deserve yet. This sense of "entitlement" and the friction between these two particular and successive generations are headaches to managers. Xers' expectations are often indeed unreasonable and they often refuse to perform tasks below those they…[continue]
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