Generational Differences in the Workplace: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y

While your office may seem quite peaceful, there is actually an underlying tension between the Baby Boomers (people born 1943-1960), Generation X (people born 1961-1981) and Generation Y (people born after 1982). This tension threatens to lower moral, increase turnover and hobble your business’ ability to grow.

Authors of Bridging the Generation Gap Linda Gravett and Robin Throckmorton’s research found the following:

  •  68% of Baby Boomers feel that “younger people” have poor work ethics, which in turn makes their work even harder.
  • 32% of Gen X-ers also feel that the “younger generation” has a poor work ethic.
  • Gen Y-ers, which have been called “the most high-maintenance, yet potentially most high-performing generation,” believe they have a good work ethic for which they are not given enough credit.
  • 13% of Gen Y-ers believe the difference in work ethics between generations causes friction in the workplace.

And what is one of the biggest differences between these generations that is a constant cause of workplace tension? Technology!

While Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers prefer phone communication and face-to-face business transactions, Generation Y-ers prefer to communicate via blogs, IMs, text messages and emails. Gen Y sees this type of communication as effective and efficient, while the older generation sees this as lazy and potentially harmful to business.

But this is just one of many examples we could have chosen. There are several causes of generational conflict in the workplace, putting increasing pressure on bosses, employers, and office managers who must recognize these ever-present tensions and then find a way to alleviate some of that tension. Each generation has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses and it is the managers’ jobs to identify those points and find ways to get the most out of their employees.

One key message employers and managers must drive into their employees is this: age defines a demographic, not a person. While people from any given generation may share certain similarities, they are individual people with their own individual set of strengths and weaknesses. Just as they say don’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge a person by the generation they were born in.

After all, we are all the young, “misunderstood” generation at one point in our lives…

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Gen Y, Gen X and the Baby Boomers: Workplace Generation Wars