Clash Points at Work – How Are the Generations Different?

by Brusman, Dr. Maynard Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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My trusty old Toyota Camry overheated the other day. I had the car towed to my mechanic and called Enterprise Car Rental to pick me up. The driver of the pick-up van was pretty friendly so we started to talk. He’s 71 years old and a retired mortician. He works full time for Enterprise.

I asked him what it was like working with mostly twenty year olds. He wisely told me that everyone got along pretty well probably due to company’s enlightened selection process. Maybe personality and values fit with the culture trumps age differences?

Learning how to work, live and play together is crucial, and every manager must master ways to bridge generational gaps. Managerial survival calls for a coordinated, collaborative strategy to leverage each generation’s strengths and neutralize its liabilities.

How Are They Different?
What happens when generations don’t share the same values and beliefs about workplace success?

Business consultant Cam Marston presents insights into managing across the generational divide in Motivating the “What’s in It for Me?” Workforce (2007, John Wiley & Sons).
Now, more than ever, American workers born after 1965 aren’t following in their elders’ footsteps. They have different workplace values and definitions of success.
Baby Boomers occupy most positions of power and responsibility on organizational charts. Most of today’s corporate management practices still reflect the systems and values of their predecessors, the veterans.
Gen Xers and Millennials therefore present unique challenges for Boomer managers. They aren’t interested in time-honored traditions or “the way things have always been done.” Rather, they’re single-mindedly focused on what it takes to get ahead to reach their perceived career destination.
This group shuns past definitions of success: climbing the company ladder and earning the rewards that come with greater responsibility. The company ladder, in their view, is irrelevant.
Mature workers and Boomers in managerial and leadership positions struggle with these differing values and beliefs, wondering how to motivate their younger colleagues. If promotions, raises and bonuses fail to motivate, then what does the trick?
We can identify several differences in values. The new generation of workers has:
1. A work ethic that no longer respects or values 10-hour workdays
2. An easily attained competence in new technologies and a facility to master even newer ones with little discomfort
3. Tenuous to nonexistent loyalty to any organization
4. Changed priorities for lifetime goals achievable by employment

The most significant changes in perspective involve time, technology and loyalty. The most common clash points at work involve generational differences in the definition of work, modes of communications, meetings and learning.
One of the most important questions to ask is “Do personality and values fit with the culture trump age differences?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their high performance leadership development program.