Older generations’ complaints about the next generation are nothing new. Conflicts replay throughout every decade. However, because of technology, this current generation gap is bigger than we’ve ever seen. I hear about these frustrations frequently in my work.
No generation is better or worse than another, and prevailing attitudes are neither right nor wrong—just decidedly different.
Every leader must master ways to bridge generational gaps because learning how to work, live and play together is crucial. Managerial survival calls for a coordinated, collaborative strategy to leverage each generation’s strengths and neutralize its liabilities.
Who Are the Generations?
First, a quick review of how the generations are grouped in the modern workplace:
- Veterans, born between 1922 and 1945 (52 million people). This cohort was born before or during World War II. Earliest experiences are associated with this world event. Some also remember the Great Depression.
- The Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 (77 million people). This generation was born during or after World War II and was raised in an era of extreme optimism, opportunity and progress. Boomers, for the most part, grew up in two-parent households, with safe schools, job security and post-war prosperity. They represent just underhalf of all U.S. workers. In the workplace, they value loyalty, respect the organizational hierarchy and generally wait their turn for advancement.
- Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979 (70.1 million people). These team members were born during a rapidly changing social climate and economic recession, including Asian competition. They grew up in two-career families with rising divorce rates, downsizing and the dawn of the high-tech/information age. On the job, they can be fiercely independent, like to be in control and want fast feedback.
- Generation Y (the New Millennials), born between 1980 and 2000 (estimated to be 80–90 million). Born to Boomer and early Gen Xer parents into our current high-tech, neo-optimistic times, these are our youngest team members. They are the most technologically adept, fast learners and tend to be impatient.
Gen X and Y comprise half the U.S. work force. Baby Boomers account for 45%, and the remaining 5% are veterans (many of whom are charged with motivating newer employees).
How has this widening gap impacted your team? I’d love to hear your comments.