by Marisa Castelo
Never before have we seen such a diverse workforce with four distinct generations working together: The Silents or Traditionalists, The Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.
Each generation is a distinct entity with unique skills and flaws, which all combine to create a powerful mixture of strengths and weaknesses. And each generation is surprised that the next generation does not behave the same.
Such diversity in values, beliefs, experience and expectations in the work place can pose many challenges as well as great opportunity. By utilizing each generation’s strengths, and understanding generational expectations, we can potentially create a cohesive and stronger work force.
THE SILENT GENERATION (1900-1945)
Make up 10 per cent of the current workforce; the dwindling generation. They were children during the great depression, young adults during WW11, parents during Vietnam.
Typically they are the classic overachievers, they hold procedures to be sacred, and are true bureaucrats. Fairness in the workplace is crucial to them. Silent employees know the meaning of sacrifice for the greater good. Often viewed by the other generations as traditional and inflexible, overly cautious and technically incompetent.
Key Message: Work hard and you will get ahead. Save – pay cash.
THE BOOMER GENERATION (1946-1964)
By contrast, they were born in the midst of post war prosperity; shaped by the Vietnam War and the hippie movement as young adults, and the indulgent climate of the 80s as parents.
They are perceived as idealistic, diplomatic, driven, and process oriented. Fiercely competitive, due to their sheer numbers, they push themselves to be the best, are said to be defined by their work and are accused of the adage that they “work to live.” Silents accuse them of being self absorbed, the Xers perceive them as micro managers, while the Millenials claim that they are people pleasers who can’t make decisions.
Key Message: You can do anything, be anything if you put your mind to it. Spend cautiously, save for retirement.
GENERATION X (1965-1980)
Often born into dual career families, or raised in single parent homes facing high divorce rates, this generation is known as the latch key generation. As a result they are particularly self-reliant. Their parents experienced layoffs/loss in the Dotcom crash and thus disdain traditional career paths.
They are said to have a gift for adapting to changing environments, desire challenge as they bore easily. This cohort seeks work-life balance. They prefer to work alone, are technology savvy, and prefer e-mails to face to face. The perception of the other generations is that Xers are too pragmatic and tend to be cynical. They will leave a job easily, if not satisfied by it.
Key Message: No jobs for life. Work smarter, not harder. Buy now, pay much later.
THE MILLENIALS/ THE Y GENERATION (1981-1999)
Nearly half of this generation is still too young to work. This group is considered the uber stroked generation. They are plugged in – technology is a birthright. Expecting instant gratification and constant stimulation in the workplace.
Key Message: You inc. Spend fast, spend lots, don’t worry about paying.
Marisa Castelo, Interlock
This article was published in the June 2008 issue of BarTalk. © 2008 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.