“Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation” It’s as Simple as X, Y, Z

According to Time Magazine, “With 85 million baby boomers and 50 million Gen Xers, there is already a yawning generation gap among American workers–particularly in their ideas of work-life balance. For baby boomers, it’s the juggling act between job and family. For Gen X, it means moving in and out of the workforce to accommodate kids and outside interests. Now along come the 76 million members of Generation Y. For these new 20-something workers, the line between work and home doesn’t really exist. They just want to spend their time in meaningful and useful ways, no matter where they are.”

The generation gap…whether real or perceived, can be a hotly debated topic. Are these letters and the years we were born a way of labeling us, or are there some truths to the nuances and different “behaviors”of each generation?

After researching the subject, we found many interesting articles discussing the different work habits, career choices and inter-relationships of different generations.  One of our favorite reads, Bruce Tulgen’s Newsletter dedicated a whole series to the subject.

Fun to think about and discuss…but in the workplace, age (and ageism) is something that’s a sensitive topic as well (and hopefully never crosses the line into discrimination.)  From the job search to long-term career planning, age and the generational “gap” can be a precarious subject.

For example:

  • The Silent Generation – Some from this generation are continuing to thrive in the workplace. This generation endured two world wars and for some, the Great Depression, so they’ve seen and done a lot and want to be respected for their experience, value, hard work, and authority.
  • Boomers, by far the biggest generation, currently comprise the largest percentage of upper management and most experienced members of the workplace.  Boomers may be thinking of retirement, but with everything that’s transpired with losses to their portfolios or lack of financial planning, they may need (and want) to stay active in the workplace longer.  (They’re not going to “fade away” just yet!)
  • Members of Gen X may be waiting for those higher-level positions to open up, but are delayed because of the Silent Gen and Boomers working longer.  Often considered the “latch-key” generation, Gen X’ers are often bored easily but learn quickly.  Savvy managers will see the value in keeping them motivated with on-going training.
  • Gen Y is very technology savvy and is seeking the work-life balance and believes they are entitled to the “good life.”  They are much more collaborative than their counterparts of the other generations.

Keep in mind that these “differences” mean everyone has something positive to bring to the team, and remembering, first and foremost, that each person you hire and manage is an individual is essential.

Whether a Silent, Boomer, an X, Y, (and don’t forget about the Z’s who will graduate in a few years), understanding the nuances of each team member and using that knowledge to effectively motivate them as a multi-generational team will result in having employees who are happy in their careers, and will work well together while bringing their own unique traits and strengths into the mix.

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