Saturday, May 30, 2009

Generational Differences in the Workplace

Today, we work in a multicultural, multigenerational workplace. For the first time in history, our workplaces can have four generations working together. It is important to understand how the four generations can make the workplace conflict-free, less stressful and productive.

Each generation brings different values, beliefs and behaviors. For instance, women and men work side by side in the workplace, something our parents, or grandparents, might have found unusual or improper. Being respectful of differences, even when they pose challenges, is part of today’s job.

Generational diversity becomes a challenge in the current workplace. This reality demands that we understand the different perspectives of four generations of workers just to accomplish our everyday work.

Common experiences within generations tend to affect their attitudes, expectations, and values concerning work. The experiences of people in their twenties are markedly different than those who have worked for over 30 years. The generation who has been downsized multiple times, versus one which has worked for only one company, verses one which has changed jobs each year, are quite different from each other.

Issues that have created increased generational conflict include the economy, outsourcing, elimination of middle-management positions, and technology advances. For instance, changes in the workplace have generally reduced information jobs and have slowed upward mobility, causing people from different generations to compete for jobs.

Add to that the different value systems of each generation, and it becomes difficult for managers and colleagues to know how to treat two workers in the same job if they are different ages.

Differences in value systems can impact ambitions, perspectives, behavioral norms, and emotional reactions to various work scenarios. Communications can also be tricky, since each generation is motivated by different workplace messages.

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