Never before has the workplace been so diversified in terms of generations. Indeed, there are five different generational forces at play in the workplace today. But our focus here is on what I’m calling, “The Big Three.”
The new kids on the block (18-32), this group has two aliases: Millennials and entitlement generation. The way Gen Y approaches job and career has created not a little workplace disruption. Not so much tech savvy as tech dependent, their heads are full of content, but often short on context.
Tech savvy, independent, and seekers of work-life-balance, Gen X (33-47), is wedged in the middle. The smallest of the Big Three, Gen X endeavors to defend their own unique expectations and values between their two generational borders.
The senior of the three groups, Boomers (48-69) have tenure and have earned and expect a level of respect and deference from the younger folks. But how ironic that the “Me” generation is struggling to share the workplace with the entitlement generation?
We wanted to know how this three generation dynamic was working out, so recently in our online small business poll we asked: “Are differences in communicating and expectations between the generations a problem in the workplace today?” Here’s what we learned.
Moving down the scale from worse case to best, one-fourth of our audience said, “Yes, it’s a big problem and getting worse,” while a smaller group allowed that, “it has been a big problem, but is improving.” The largest number, a little over half, reported, “We’ve had some issues, but we’re managing it.” And 21% reported no problems now or in the past.
When we asked our small business audience a similar question four years ago, 62% said, “More improvement is needed.” With our new poll indicating that almost three-fourths are okay with the progress of generational comity, can we assume that while we may not all like where the generations are, we like the trend?
Professionally speaking, Gen Y should acknowledge that they’re standing on the shoulders of Baby Boomers and seek out the valuable context this generation can provide them. Boomers must recognize that Gen Y is coming online with a level of immediately useful skills and relevant perspectives that Boomers didn’t have when they were pups. And like a middle child, Gen X has to establish their own relevance between the first-born and the baby.
Write this on a rock … Generational harmony requires patience, tolerance, and respect going in all directions.
Jim Blasingame is one of the world's leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He is the creator and award-winning host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Small Business Advocate® Show. In addition to his weekly columns, Jim is the author Small Business is like a Bunch of Bananas, Three Minutes to Success, and his latest release, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.