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Blending the Generations in the Workplace

Blending generations in the workplaceDiversity has many faces, one of which is generational. In today’s work place, there are three to four generations of workers. All generations bring something to the workplace and should be valued for what they offer to the organization. But because the generations have different beliefs and approaches to work, the way they achieve the end result is often strikingly different. This can cause frustration and upset in the workplace if it’s not addressed.

If organizations are going to meet the challenges of today’s competitive environment, they must be willing to learn about, accept, and work with all of their employees, regardless of their ages. Rising to that challenge, however, requires commitment from organizations and in some cases, a change in the accepted corporate culture.

Take a look at some of the differences between the generations:

Generation Traditionalists
(born before 1945)
Baby Boomers
Generation X
Generation Y
(after 1981)
Values Hard work, Loyalty, Trust, Stability, Sacrifice Achievement, Personal Growth, Variety Diversity, Quality of Life, Informality Responsibility, Making a Difference, Optimism
Work Ethic Pay your dues, don’t rock the boat, defined by occupation ("I am a ____") Build my career, work long hours, life focus is work, making it to the top What’s in it for me?, Flexibility, Independence, "Work is what I do so I can have a life" How can I make a difference?, service, Do the right thing, cooperation
Family Structure Close-knit, extended family close by Divorce, single parent households Blended families, latch key kids Blended families, parents at home more
Grew up with  Superman, Flash Gordon, Joe DiMaggio Ghandi, John Glenn, JFK The Brady Bunch, The Simpsons Barney, Beanie Babies, Princess Diana

Of course, the very idea of labeling anyone just because he or she was born in a certain year is just as offensive as labeling someone based on their heritage or skin color.

So the idea in discussing the differences in generational outlooks is to gain a better understanding of how one’s life experience and how what’s happening in the world influences one’s thoughts, beliefs, and values. The challenge for management then, is to harness these differences to create a work environment that allows each generation of worker to contribute, be valued, and thrive.

For more on Generations in the Workplace, click here.