Generational Communication: What is YOUR Gen?

by Betty Lochner on July 15, 2010

Generational differences can make working and living together confusing and frustrating. Why are those other generations so goofy?

And, what generation do you belong to?

We live in interesting times.  Because of longer lives, a horrid recession, and probably a bunch of other personal factors, we have, for the first time in history, four generations working side by side in the workplace.

Each group brings a unique set of experiences and values that influences their behavior and outlook. A Boomer working along side a Gen Y, for example, can make you just a little crazy if you don’t understand. Now, keep in mind, that the dates of each generation we’ll discuss differ by a few years depending on the source you use. And, no one is a perfect stereotype of any one generation (well, except maybe my dad – a true traditionalist in every way). We all have our own unique backgrounds and experiences, but, as you’ll see, there are definitely strong core similarities among each group.

What year were you when?

Think back to what year is was when you were about age 10. What was going on in the world?  In your world? That year will most likely be the most accurate account of the generation you belong to.  I was 10 in 1968 – so I’m clearly a Boomer.  I have two kids that are Gen Y, and believe me there is definitely a “gap” there! Here is a quick snapshot of the four generations and their core work values:

1. The Traditionalists/Veterans (born 1909-1943), represents 15% of the current workforce.

  • This group is  loyal to their employer and expect loyalty in return.
  • They believe that promotions, raises and recognition should come from tenure.
  • They measure work ethic on timeliness, productivity, and not drawing attention to themselves.

2. The Boomers (1943-1960), represents a whopping 34% of the current workforce:

  • Boomers also have a strong work ethic and believe in working hard and that the number of hours you put in counts.
  • They believe that teamwork is critical to success and that relationship building is important.
  • They expect loyalty from those they work with.

3. Generation X (1960-1980), 18% of the current workforce.

  • This group wants open communication regardless of their position, title, or tenure and respect production over tenure.
  • They value control of their time.
  • They look for a person to whom they can invest loyalty, not company.

4. Gen Y/Millenials  (1980-2000) – represents 33%  of the current workforce. This is the fastest growing group and will soon be larger than Boomers. Watch out, one of them may soon be your new boss!

  • This group wants an individual to help them achieve their goals (not a company).
  • They want open, constant communication and positive reinforcement from their boss.
  • They want a job with great personal fulfillment and search for ways to shed stress in their lives.

Now, put any 2 of these groups together and you have a conflict of how the culture of work should be. A  Traditionalist is loyal to the company and may expect to spend their entire career in one place.  Generation X is always looking for a way to learn new skills, new things and has very little loyalty to a single company.  They may, however, have some loyalty to a person, but not to a company. They expect to change jobs often and may get restless sooner rather than later.

Conflict could come when a Traditionalist, (or a Boomer) expects loyalty to the company or their position while Generation Y simply wants an interesting job that pays well – and why can’t they have the supervisor job right off the bat? When  Boomers talk about needing benefits at work, they are thinking medical, dental, retirement.  Generation Y may very well think of benefits as some good perks, such as free games and videos – or a cool computer!

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Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

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