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Generations can be defined as periods of time characterized by events or pop culture unique to that period of time. A generation might be defined by music, fads, inventions and wars experienced by those born during the generation. In the workplace setting, it is important to understand how employees of each generation view the world, how they are motivated and how they learn. Understanding generational differences among employees, in addition to many other dimensions of diversity such as race, sex and nationality, can help supervisors successfully lead a team of employees composed of individuals from all generations. What Generations have been Identified? Jo Ann Lee, PhD., Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte identified the following generations: Silent Generation (born 1925-1945) Currently ages 62-82, this generation was shaped by the events of World War II as children, and the Korean War as adults. Trends of this generation include marrying at a young age, fragmented families and prolific litigation. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) Currently ages 43-61, this generation was shaped by the events of the Civil Rights movement, the Women's Liberation movement, the Vietnam War, landing on the moon and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Trends of this generation include listening to Motown music and the Beatles, hippies, the draft and low unemployment. Generation X (born 1961-1981) Sub-generations: MTV Generation 1975-1985 and Boomerang Generation 1981-1986 Currently ages 26-46, this generation was shaped by the events of the oil crisis of 1973, the end of the Cold War and the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Trends affecting this generation include corporate downsizing, the environmental movement and state budget cuts. Generation Y (born 1977-2003) Sub-generations: Echo Boom 1986-1994 and Internet Generation 1986-1999 Currently ages 4-30, this generation was shaped by the events of the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, the rise of the Information Age and wide-spread use of the Internet. This generation shares the social views of Baby Boomers and the culture of Generation X.

Generational Values


What Does Each Generation Value? The Office of Diversity at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association identifies the characteristics valued each of these generations. These values can help managers to determine the best way to motivate employees from a particular generation. Of course, motivation is an individual characteristic, but the following can be an additional tool for managers to use. Silent Generation This generation values privacy, hard work, trust, formality, authority, institutional leadership and social order. Baby Boomers This generation values competition, change, hard work, success and teamwork. They are anti-rules and regulations and will challenge the system. If you give them a cause, they will fight for it. Generation X This generation values the entrepreneurial spirit, loyalty, independence, creativity and information. They welcome feedback and adapt well to new situations. This generation values quality of work life. They work hard, but they would rather find quicker, more efficient ways of working so that they have time for fun. While Baby Boomers are working hard to move up the ladder, Generations X-ers are working hard so that they can have more time to balance work and life responsibilities. Generation Y This generation values positive reinforcement, autonomy, positive attitudes and diversity. They are used to making and spending money. Technology is highly valued and is used as a tool for multi-tasking.

What Are the Worker Characteristics of Each Generation? Dr. Lee ascribes characteristics to each generation. Silent Generation Employees in this generation tend to be cautious and risk averse. They are conformers. Many employees in this generation are affluent due to years of hard work and saving. Baby Boomers Employees in this generation tend to be individualist and perfectionist. They are high achievers and want to "make a difference". As managers they tend to "micromanage".

Generational Values


Generation X Employees in this generation generally respect skills (not credentials) and are willing to "job shop". They place family as first priority over work. Generation Y Employees in this generation are good at "multi-tasking". They tend to have an interactive style and are tolerant of diversity, multiculturalism and internationalism. What Do the Generations Have in Common? Research shows that despite these differences in generational values, all employees value trust. There may be differences in how supervisors and employees build and communicate trust based on generational perspectives. However, it is a basic foundation employees are seeking in the work environment. Managers should keep in mind that individual differences among employees exist regardless of the generation. Dr. Lee describes these individual differences as: · · · · · tendency towards extraversion and introversion openness to experience agreeableness conscientiousness emotional stability

Another factor for supervisors to remember is the employee's career stage. Each employee's goals, motivation factors and learning needs change as they move through their career. Dr. Lee identifies three career stages: · · · First Stage ­ Exploration Second Stage ­ Establishment Third Stage ­ Maintenance/Growth/Stagnation.

Generational Values



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