In the age domain, stereotypes are abundant and can be exceedingly negative in nature. This can contribute to an increase in social distance and avoidance between people of different generations (McCann & Giles, 2006).
I was surprised to learn that there are many more generational groups than I knew of. From oldest to youngest, they are: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z (also known as Millennials). In theory, a business could have employees ranging in age from 18-81. From the information that I have researched, it seems that most of the differences lie in three main categories: technology, communication preference and work style (independent vs. groups).
- Traditionalists- Born between 1922 and 1945, they are also known as ‘The silent generation’. They have a strict adherence to rules and regulations. They respect authority, are hardworking and are loyal to ‘the institution’.
- Baby Boomers- Born between 1946 and 1964, their hard work is demonstrated by long hours on the job. They value education and high-quality work.
- Generation X (Gen X)- Born between 1965 and 1980, they are self-reliant and appreciate individual projects with minimal supervision. They are highly productive and will complete tasks as quickly as possible.
- Generation Y (Gen Y)- Born between 1981 and 1999, they are idealistic and motivated by purpose. They are generally known as multitaskers, optimistic and diverse.
- Generation Z (Gen Z or Millennials)- Born from 2000 to the present, they will be motivated by finance and security. They care about making a difference, but ultimately motivated by ensuring they have a secure life outside of work. This comes from being a child during the most recent financial depression and seeing their parents struggle with economic difficulties (Forbes, 2017).
Workers bring their various group identities along with them simply by the nature of their biological makeup or upbringing. The existence of these groups inevitably lend to an ‘us vs. them’ comparison along group lines. Individuals often focus on differences rather than similarities, mistrust the other, and develop a bias in favor of one’s own group (McCann & Giles, 2006).
Communication, or lack of, is one of the main sources of conflict between intergenerational workers. There is now such an abundance of ways to communicate, and workers of different generations with a varied preference of communication style that miscommunication is more likely than ever before.
Each generation will eventually be the ‘older’ generation, and like the groups before them, will have to learn how to communicate with the newest members of the work force. A common denominator among every group is the desire to be heard and to be valued. The company culture itself can bring people together. We need to be sensitive to the differences, and at the same time, realize that every employee is an important part of the team.
The question, however, is how to overcome our own instincts that tell us to keep doing things the way be always have because it is comfortable and safe. Being able to fill the generation gap would increase productivity and work satisfaction. If we can create an atmosphere that is inclusive from the moment of hire, we can create a company that, like its employees, is intergeneration and is a place where people of all age groups can be comfortable shopping and also comfortable communicating. Unfortunately, there are a few gaps in the resources that I have selected. The first gap is the credibility of resources found. Although at first glance, they seemed legitimate and well documented, the further in depth I went into the credentials, the less likely I was to identify them as credible resources. The second gap is that, even though I found useful information on the group identities, there were no finding of ways to bridge the gaps that exist. So, for that reason, I believe that more research needs to be completed in order to consider this task a success.
That being said, one thing that comes to mind to bridge the gap in intergenerational differences in the workplace is employee workshops for the current employees and as part of the new hire orientation. We need to step out of our comfort zone and engage with the multitude of experience, knowledge and ideas that are right next to us. We were once their age and they will soon be our age. Different does not equate to negative. Let’s learn from one another. Don’t let the older generation become dinosaurs and do let the youngest generation be heard and acknowledged.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” – Bill Nye
Mccann, R. M., & Giles, H. (2006). Communication With People of Different Ages in the Workplace: Thai and American Data. Human Communication Research,32(1), 74-108. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2006.00004.x
Patel, D. (2017, September 22). 8 Ways Generation Z Will Differ From Millennials In The Workplace. Retrieved October 23, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/