Generational Differences in the Workplace

In the eyes of the young, anyone above 40 years old is considered old.

I asked some young adults what they think is the main difference between themselves and people they consider as old. One of the most common responses is that old people seem to fear new things whereas young people love new things. To them, their parents and older office colleagues are always doing the same old things, going to the same old places and talking about the same old things, mostly about the past.

Many boomers are still working, most in senior positions managing teams of Gen-X and older staff. Some boomers may report to an older or younger management and definitely all boomers will have to work closely with colleagues from different age groups.

Since each generation has its own set of values, generational differences can lead to frustration and friction in the workplace. Every generation is influenced by the economic, political and social events of its time. These experiences cultivate the attitude we have towards work and the way we work.

While boomers appreciate calls for hard work, loyalty and duty, younger people tend to get uninterested with routine and familiar environments in a short time. This does not mean that they are unmotivated but rather they dislike stagnation. Many of us regard job hopping as a stigma, yet a younger person may view changing jobs as a reflection of his or her marketability.

I recall an exit interview for a young and talented apps developer who was paid exceptionally well for his age. His reason for leaving the company was to seek new technology challenges in another industry or another country. One year in one place is too long for him and he is afraid to lose out to his peers. To him, better prospects mean more exposure to new ideas, places, people and opportunities for a global experience.

The workplace is changing rapidly. For the first time in history, there are four generations together and it would be good to know how this is working out for us and our children. The following video is by a management solution company which I must declare I have no business dealings whatsoever but thought it is quite good for a summary of generational differences in the workplace. (and do ignore the comments)


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