Generational work habits and work ethics are hot topics among bloggers and magazine writers. Many of the articles I read seem to advocate the benefits of one generation (usually written by a member of that generation), and too often disparage other generations. I came across an interesting article today that talks about the different perspectives and benefits of various generations (How Years Affect Careers, Michael Grady, Emerald Coast.com 10/24/2007). The article is based on an interview with Robin Throckmorton, co-author of Bridging the Gap: How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers, And Gen Yers to Work Together And Achieve More (Career Press, 2007).
Throckmorton doesn’t believe in defining people by their birth date. “You can go too far the other way, and start stereotyping,” she says, “and that’s the kind of thinking that leads you to ‘all older workers hate change,’ or ‘young employees are not dependable.’ She goes on to say “It helps to understand where each generation came from, and appreciate the qualities that shaped them.”
Here is a summary of the four generations covered in the article:
Born: 1930 to 1945
Background: Children who remember the Depression and/or World War II, appreciate employment and career continuity.
Common characteristics: Strong work ethic, extensive job experience. Often perceived as frail or inflexible.
Comments: “People are sometimes afraid of radio babies for health reasons,” says Throckmorton. “But radio babies want people to recognize that their bodies and brains still work. Those hiring people between 60 and 80 tell us they’re the most productive workers they have.”
Born: 1946 to 1964
Background: Boomers grew up with post-World War II prosperity and TV; entered the work force when “career path” meant a single company ladder to climb.
Common characteristics: Hard workers, experienced and loyal. Sometimes seen as “stuck in their ways.”
Comments: “A lot of people are reluctant to hire boomers, thinking they’ll retire soon,” she says. But changing retirement scenarios often inspire boomers to second careers. “They want to keep going. They want a better work-life balance. And their second career is often much different than the first one.”
Born: 1965 to 1976
Background: Latchkey kids, often from dual-income homes. Entered the work force at the dawn of the Computer Age.
Common characteristics: Independent, flexible, technologically diverse. Can be perceived as self-absorbed or disloyal.
Comments: “This is the first latchkey generation,” says Throckmorton. “So they’re very used to surviving on their own. They change jobs more often, so they put less stock in company loyalty. So, they can be seen (by elders) as impatient with their careers.”
Born 1977 to 1990
Background: Raised in a fast-paced, violence- and media-saturated, technologically booming world.
Strengths: Energetic, innovative. Can be viewed as arrogant or defiant.
Stereotype: “Gen Y’s are sometimes called ‘Gen Why?’ because they question everything,” she says. “They look for the value in what they do, and are less inclined to confer respect upon someone because of a title.”