by Carol Chandler-Wood
Congratulations! You have just completed your college education and have begun your first “real” job. It is an exciting time; starting your career, becoming independent, and making money. It is important as you begin your career that you become aware of one particular challenge you face. This will help you begin your career with better understanding of those around you and the dynamics that surround the workplace.
Today, for the first time in history, four distinctively diverse generations are employed in the workforce; Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers. These generations often collide in today’s workplace and create an environment filled with individual and generational problems where attitudes of “Us” versus “Them” and “every man and woman for himself and herself” surface. An adversarial atmosphere like this interferes with the energy, productivity, teamwork, and collaborative problem solving that must take place in today’s complex and global market place. Therefore, in order to create a company environment that is positive and productive, all employees must be aware if the strengths and assets that each generation brings to the organization and must also be skilled in dealing with multiple generations in both subordinate and supervisory positions. Following is a description of the different generations that are most likely working within the company you have just joined.
Veterans – Born between 1922 and 1943. Core values are dedication, discipline, sacrifice, hard work, duty before pleasure, delayed rewards, conformity, consistency and uniformity, sense of history, oriented towards the past, respect for authority, adherence to the rules, preference for hierarchy, patience, conservative spending, deep sense of personal organization and national honor. Liabilities of having veterans in the workplace are their difficulty coping with ambiguity and change, reluctance to buck the system, discomfort with conflict and reluctance to disagree.
Baby Boomers – Born between 1943 and 1960: Core values are optimism, team orientation, personal gratification, health and wellness, personal growth, youth, hard work, and involvement. Liabilities of having Boomers in the workplace are their frequent lack of budget orientation, avoidance of conflict, reluctance to disagree with peers, need for comfort with processes overshadowing their need for goal attainment, over sensitivity to feedback, judgmental attitude of those who see things differently and self-centeredness.
Gen Xers – Born between 1960 and 1980: Core values are appreciation of diversity, ability to think globally, the balance of work and home, techno literacy, work should be fun, casual approach to authority, self-reliance, and pragmatism. Liabilities of having Gen Xers in the workplace are their impatience, poor people skills, cynicism, low expectations about job security, and lack of willingness to make personal sacrifices at work.
Gen Yers – Born between 1980 and 2000: Core values are civic duty, confidence, optimism, achievement, sociability, morality, street smarts, and appreciation of diversity. Liabilities of having Gen Yers in the workplace are their need for supervision and structure and inexperience in handling difficult interpersonal issues.
By using this generational framing to understand the values and work practices of those with which you work in your first job out of college, greater understanding and cooperation will be fostered amongst everyone in the company.