Generational Gap in the Workplace Contemporary Working Dissertation

Excerpt from Dissertation :

Generational Gap in the Workplace

Contemporary working age Americans are categorized into four distinct generations that, allegedly, have been made into what they are and their personalities formed due to the socio-political and economic as well as historical occurrences of their age. These four generations are variously known as: Traditionals, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y

There are at least two views regarding generational differences in the workplace. The first suggests that whilst individuals are distinct, nonetheless, shared generational values, events, beliefs, behaviors, and occurrences indelibly affected members of a particular generation and impact them from effective intergenerational communication (Zemke, et al. 2000). The other is that although, certain generational events do occur that influence people's behavior and beliefs, ultimately employees are constant and generic in what they seek from jobs and trying to categorize them and predict their performance according to generation category is misguided (Yang & Guy, 2006). This essay dwells on and discusses the former suggestion.

Four Generations in the Workplace

The Traditional generation

This is the generation that most believe is long retired, although some of them continue to populate the workplace, particularly if they own the business. Individuals of this workplace, also known as the veterans, the Silents, the Silent generation, the greatest generation, or the matures, are those who were born before 1945 with some dating them to as far back as 1922 ( Having experienced World War OO and the Great Depression, they are ordinarily characterized as representing restraint, frugality, and commitment to their job as well as being conservative and self-disciplined (Niemic, 2002). They like formality, work best in a hierarchical top-down level of commands and decision-make based on the past. Zemke et al. (2000) sees members of this generation as private, reliable, responsible, morally committed to family, friends, jobs, and utterances, obedient to authority, conformist, and hoarding individuals. Others seen as them as loyal, dedicated teamwork players, averse to risks (Jenkins, 2007). In roles of leadership, they prefer the command-and-control rank-and-file system and pattern of military operations and are stable, loyal, and detail oriented, although detesting change and ambiguity and reticent with their disagreements (Zemke et al., 2000).

The Baby Boom Generation

Whilst most sources refer to Baby Boomers as those born between 1943 and 1965, the U.S. Census Bureau identifies them ass individuals born between 1946 and 1964. Baby Boomers have also been non-complimentary referred to as pigs-in-the-python. (Callon & Greenhouse, 2008). Called the Baby Boomers due to the huge number of babies that were born following the end of World War II, they have had a great impact on American society due to their size -- approximately 78 million -- and due to their turmoil of their times that included the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, Kennedy assassination, the civil riots, and Watergate. Many of these individuals are now in workplace positions of leadership and leadership may best epitomize their character.

Baby Boomers learned to like and value change and are generally seen as tempestuous gyros "distrusting anyone over 30" (Karp et al., 2002). It was Baby Boomers, too, who, arguably, started the workaholism trend in America (NOAAOD, 2006) equating success with industry. They believe in gradual promotion according to abilities, promote collaboration and teamwork, believe in loyalty towards employers, employees and workplace, and are fiercely competitive. (Niemic, 2002).

Baby Boomers may dislike constant feedback, being independent and self-efficacious. Characterized as goal-oriented, some have described them as being more process- than result-oriented (Zemke et al., 2000), although simultaneously they are also liberal and fun loving (to a degree) as well as optimistic. They are conflict avoidant and many of them prize diversity (NOAAOD, 2006). They values self-improvement, health, job security, and possess a sense of hedonism (Zemke et al., 2000).

In a further mix of descriptions, Baby Boomers have been characterized as expert at communication without wishing o cross others, whilst also thriving on change, demanding demonstration, and, paradoxically, fighting for a cause even thoguh they detest conflict (NOAAOD, 2006). They value command, whilst articulating obeisance to individuality,

Generation X (Xers)

The Census Bureau categorizes these individuals as those born between 1968 and 1979. Some, however, place their limits as low as 1963 and as high as 1982 (Karp et al., 2002). Generation X has also been called the baby bust generation due to its low size in comparison to the preceding Baby Boomers.

Baby Xers are a depressed generation having been born in an affluent and financially secure generation but maturing through fiscal downturn and low social morale with devastating global disease and political events. Xers saw their parents' economic decline as well as witnessing the deterioration of America as nation. They experienced corporate greed, stagnation job market, limited wage mobility, instability of jobs, and corporate downsizing. Their childhood, too, became rough with conditions including two parents working, divorce, dysfunctionality, becoming latchkey kids, and forced to fend for themselves due to their conditions (Karp et al., 2002). The impact of AIDS, MTV, and gruesome corporate corruption and competition, as well as being impacted by the in dubious cognitive change of computer and Internet have furthermore, hit Xers.

Most social commentators see Xers as being more inclined than previous generations to unite family with work (Jenkins, 2007). They are perceived as more self-reliant, innovative, and independent than previous generations and, although loyal to friends and family, are not necessary overly so to their workplace or to employers (Karp et al., 2002). They value skills development and learning, possess strong technical skills, and are results- rather than process-oriented as well as skeptical of authority figures. According to the NOAAOD (2006), Xers value feedback, are flexible, and seek work that is meaningful and fun. They are also pragmatic, entrepreneurial, and creative (NOAAOD, 2006) and, although individualistic, still value collaboration.

Generation Y

The perimeters of Generation Y (Gen Y) are in conflict. Some see them as ranging between 1978 and 2002, whilst others perceive them as ranging as low as 1989 and as high as 1999 (Campton & Hodge, 2006), or between 1978 and 1995 (NOAAOD, 2006), or 1980 and 2002 (Kersten, 2002). Their labels differ variously including the Millenials, Nexters, Generation www, the Digital generation, the Net Generation, Generation N, Generation E, and the Echo Boomers. They themselves call themselves the Non-Nuclear Family Generation, the Wannabees, the Cyberkids, the Feel-Good generation, the Searching-for-an-Identity generation and the Do-or-Die generation. These labels give us a good deal of insight into their characteristic. Most significantly, GenY have been affected by the Cyber age and the Internet.

Parental excesses and technological advancements as well as the globalization of the world have impacted this generation (Niemic, 2000). Aside from their absorption, if not obsession, with technology, Generation Y are otherwise supposed to be more similar to Xers, than previous generations are, in the marketplace. They like teamwork and collaboration, prize diversity, are optimistic, and resilient to change, as well as flexible with changing conditions. The NOAAOD (2006) also sees them as independents, innovative, seeking a balanced life, multi-taskers, and highly educated. Although, they may possess more general information than depth of information and must of this may be trivia and superficial. Others see them as demanding and as superciliously confident (Glass, 2007). They are also said to be more results-oriented and entrepreneurial, in sync with Generation X (Crampton & Hodge, 2006).

Generational Comparison in Work Qualities

Attitude towards work

Part of the impetus leading to research, and categorization of, Generation Gap in the workplace has been the worksite discontentment to the level of work that the oldest generation sees as slacking off and lack of dedication to work, at least on the part of the newer generations (Jenkins, 2007). Assessment of the generational types does demonstrate (according to all we have said above) that baby boomers did start the workaholism trend, whilst the Traditional generation is committed to their work, whilst Gen Y and Gen X are more interested in a sort of balance and are more entrepreneurial and less committed to their employers and workplace. This may, understandably, create conflict between the various generations.

However, existence of this gap is also debatable since least one cross-sectional study (Smola & Sutton, 2002) have shown that attitudes between two ages groups _ 27 to 40-year-old and 41-year-olds to 65 years olds in both 1974 and 1999 -- showed that both age groups showed more dedication to work in 1974 than in 1999, hence it may be more socio-historical changes in the world around them, than actual generational personality, that causes demonstrative change in work ethics. Both age groups also believed less in 1999 that work made them a better person and that work contributed to their value. The significance of work as creed may have plummeted through the generations.

Others (e.g. Tang and Tzeng, 1992), however, find reverse results with importance of work ethic increasing, rather than decreasing, between the generations and with the General Social Survey (Mitchall, 2001) indicating that 44% of individuals aged between 18 to 24 preferred to spend more time at work.…

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