Generational Management — Part 1

To all those who were not children in the 60’s and 70’s — We survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, and tuna from a can. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets — not to mention — the risks we took hitchhiking. As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, butter, and drank Kool-Ade made with real sugar. Nevertheless, we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day. As long as we were back when the streetlights came on, we were not in trouble. No one was able to reach us all day – and we survived! We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD’s, no surround-sound or CD’s, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms……. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and — although we were told it would happen — we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?!

How many generations currently inhabit the workplace? There are actually four generations inhabiting the workplace. For purposes of this post we will focus on just three — Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation “X” (1965-1978), and Generation “Y” (1979-1999).

Baby Boomers are noted as being loyal, competitive, willing to conform, appreciative of hierarchical structures, not interested in work/life balance, believe in “paying your dues”, slow to adapt to change, interested in the process, and like formal and infrequent reviews.

Generation “X” is noted as being skeptical and independent. They crave work/life balance. They are more impatient than Baby Boomers when it comes to the pace of advancement. They are more able to deal with change. They are more interested in the results determining how they are evaluated. They prefer more frequent and informal recognitions and reviews.

Generation “Y” are noted as being collaborative and team-oriented. They multi-task continually and have a disdain for older definitions of a good work ethic. They demand work/life balance though it is different than that of Generation “X” (who prefer a distinct break between work and personal life). Generation “Y” see little distinction between work and personal life as work is an expression of themselves. Generation “Y” is a “child-centric” cohort and are very impatient because they have been told since birth that they can do “whatever they want.” They prefer continual feedback and see any structure as being anti-thetical to “all of us being equal.”

In future posts, I will look at common areas of intergenerational conflict in the workplace and how we can manage these three generations in the workplace.


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