Generational differences are the varying values, beliefs, and attitudes among different age groups in the workplace. Generational differences at the workplace exist due to the age differences among workers. The differences in the workplace result from the differences in perspectives and experiences in each generation at the workplace. Every generation operates differently depending on their experiences. Thus, it is essential to encourage diversity and inclusivity within the workplace. As much as there may be conflicts due to generational differences, companies with diverse generations tend to outdo the ones without. The differences affect how employees act, communicate, and think about one another.
There are five types of generations that are found within the workplace. These generation types are marked by the significant events during those particular years (Tolbize, 2008). Traditionalists are one of the five generations. This generation can also be referred to as the silent generation. It makes up for 2% of the workplace. It is made up of people born between the years 1925-1945. The traditionalists are shaped by World War 11, the great depression, movies, and radio. They are dependable, and practical and value a stable workforce. They also value hierarchy and prefer face-to-face communication, not emails. The other generation type is the baby boomers. Baby boomers were born between the years 1946 to 1964. This generation was shaped by the Cold War, Watergate, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. They are workaholics, optimistic, duty-bound, success-driven, and loyal to their tasks. They value teamwork and prefer face-to-face communication, although phone calls are also a great way of communication. They also widely accept emails as a form of communication at the workplace.
Generation X is also another type of generation at the workplace. This is the generation of workers born between the years 1965 to 1980. Some of the factors that shape these workers are the Cold War, the dot-com bubble, and the AIDs pandemic. Generation X workers are self-reliant, adaptable, and independent and value their lives more than their workplace’s profits. They prefer working independently, and if they feel that their needs are not met at their workplace, they may prefer looking for an alternative. If they carry out any extra work outside their job specification, they prefer being paid overtime or compensation. They also prefer emails as much as phone calls and face-to-face communication.
Millennials, also called Generation Y, are another type of generation in the workplace. They were born between the years 1981 to 2000. They are shaped by the rise of the internet, 9/11, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and Columbine. They are tech-savvy, purpose-driven, and civic-minded. Like Generation X, if their employers do not meet their needs, they may seek a more satisfying job. They value teamwork, a satisfying work environment, and a balance between life and work. Since they are tech-savvy, they prefer communicating through emails and instant messaging. Generation Z is the last type of generation in the workplace. Such workers are born between the years 2001 and 2020. COVID-19 shapes them, the rise of social media, global recessions, and advanced technology. They are independent, purpose-driven, self-aware, and value personalization. They value individual recognition and job stability. Like Generations X and Y, they also leave companies that do not make them feel that their needs are met. They communicate primarily through texting, social media, and instant messaging.
Unique characteristics mark every generation since workers from different generations are born when significant events happen worldwide. Therefore, there are bound to be positive and negative results from the interactions of the different generations (Benson & Brown, 2011). This comes in terms of expectations, work habits, and communication styles. Therefore, supervisors have to devise ways of dealing with negative worker interactions. One way they can do that is by encouraging their employees from different generations to train one another on their weaknesses. This, in turn, helps eliminate any forms of bias regarding skills and performance among the workers. Another way of dealing with negative interactions is by ensuring no communication breakdowns among employees. This is because communication is vital in achieving a company’s goals, and the presence of communication breakdowns can lead to low performance. Supervisors and managers can also help by encouraging mutual mentoring among the differently aged workers. This can be done on neutral grounds, like during workshops and team-building sessions. Team building activities create room for positive interactions.
Some positive results are the availability of multiple perspectives from different generations. Different generations create room for multiple perspectives from the workers. Therefore, companies have various information resources to pool from to encourage satisfying results. Problem-solving abilities also come in handy due to generational differences. This is due to the combination of diverse skills and combination of various problem-solving skills. Different generations at the workplace also tend to mentor one another. This leads to satisfying results for companies. Meaningful relations at the workplace are also built as a result of the uniqueness of each generation.
The negative results of generational differences are communication issues, negative stereotypes, and varying employee expectations. Different generations prefer different styles of communication. This may, in turn, hinder communication at the workplace, thus the need for employers to encourage a neutral mode of communication. Negative stereotypes are also a result of diversity among employees from different generations. This is because people from different generations have preconceived notions about either generation. Employers, too, have varying employee expectations due to generational differences. Thus, there are varying differences in what employees expect from every generation, hence the need for inclusivity.
Older people tend to have issues with people from younger generations and vice versa. This is concerning stereotyping. The issues are brought about by the different generations’ beliefs, attitudes, and values that co-exist to achieve the same results in the workplace (Jones et al., 2018). This is my overall observation in terms of what happens in the workplace and the social arena. From experience, older workers tend to see younger workers as entitled, lazy, and lacking in respect, while younger workers see their counterparts as outdated. Younger workers, I have noticed, also view some older workers as unwilling to change with the rapidly changing world, more so in terms of technology. There must be a mutual understanding among the different generations to break the gap. This will help eliminate the stereotyping and create a conducive environment for all workers.
In conclusion, no working environment can be void of employees from different generations. The fair deal about this is that employees from different generations make a company better. This is because the differences in each generation add positively to a company. Different generations are equipped with different skills and technological advances with each generation. Therefore, employers must ensure all employees feel comfortable meeting the company’s needs. Thus, diversity and inclusion should be embraced by companies. This can be done by breeding a healthy environment by pairing employees from different generations and encouraging knowledge sharing among the employees. This way, every employee from every generation will feel seen and heard, thus doing away with the various stereotypes that exist for every generation.
Benson, J., & Brown, M. (2011). Generations at work: are there differences, and do they matter? The international journal of human resource management. 22(9), 1843-1865.
Jones, J. S., Murray, S. R., & Tapp, S. R. (2018). Generational Differences in the workplace. Journal of Business Diversity, 18(2).
Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Research and training center on community living, 5(2), 1-21.