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5 Generations are working together for the first time this year – or do they work together?

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Information comes to us all in many and varied ways, so when I heard that five generations are working together for the first time this year, I was very interested to look into what effects a situation like this would have on each one of us in the workplace and beyond.

For some, we simply don’t care what generation we work with or socialize with, just so long as we get the job done, and done well, and the workplace runs smoothly. This group really are not worried what the next generation is called, their classification of behaviours, or anything else for that matter. However, there is another group of workers who find it vital to keep up with what the next generation are doing, the language they are using, how they are dressing, and this group feel they need to mimic the up and coming generation as they see them as a threat. The younger generation are seen to have greater knowledge, have had it easier, given more opportunities, technology is improving all the time therefore the younger generations are more tech savvy and not afraid of what technology can do, but also there is the fear of “they will take our jobs!”

Let’s put this Generation Gap thing into perspective. According to research undertaken by the Harvard Joint Centre for Housing Studies, defining the generations is not as straightforward as it seems. [1] However, the Centre for Generational Kinetics defines the generations in line with what is commonly accepted.[2] That is:

  • iGen, aka Generation Z: born 1996 and after
  • Millennials, aka Generation Y: born 1977 to 1995
  • Generation X: born 1965 to 1976
  • Baby Boomers: born 1946 to 1964
  • Traditionalists: born 1945 and before

As I see it, Gen Z integrates very well with the older generation. As they just see them as their grandparents or great-grandparents, Gen Z seems to cut them some slack. Not so with the Baby Boomers and less so with Gen X as this group is seen as the parental figure, so Gen Z do not want to be told what to do, and the older generations expect Gen Z to do exactly as they are told. This can lead to disharmony in the work and social arena. For each generation the question can be asked “What planet are you from, and what language are you speaking?”

You might ask what about Gen Y? Well they are just caught in the middle. I am sure, they, at times, might feel like an interpreter, a junction between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Z. Gen Y are possibly thinking ‘we don’t get it either’. This has been the same for every generation in the past, as no generation has “got” the generation before them.

The classification of generations can of course be of great importance and value. There has been so much research into each generation, what behaviours they exhibit, how they fit with society etc. Gen X are classified as being slackers, Gen Y as lazy, and Gen Z are technology absorbed.

With all the rumblings around generation classifications, it appears we just want to pigeonhole everyone, blame each other’s generation for the good and bad. We do not seem to be very tolerant of each other’s generation. This has been the same for each generation that has gone before us. Nothing has changed but everything is different or at least that is how each generation sees it.

Once we can embrace each generation’s differences and realize each generation has so much to give, and learn from, we will then – and only then – work and play harmoniously together, instead of pulling in different directions.

As I see it, we all need to take a deep breath, stop comparing each other, and start caring about and encouraging one another. Each generation has its own special gifts: the older generations have experience, the younger generation has enthusiasm, new ideas and a new way of doing things. So let’s keep this in our minds: the next generation will be the generation caring for us in the aged care facilities, this is the continuing process for every generation to come. Life is too short to dismiss the generation before or after.

Now is the time to play nice with everyone!

[1] George Masnick (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies), 2012, ‘Defining the Generations’, http://housingperspectives.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/defining-generations.html

[2] The Center for Generation Kinetics, 2015, ‘Five Generations of Employees in Today’s Workforce: Managers and leaders face an unprecedented challenge’, http://genhq.com/five-generations-of-employees-in-todays-workforce/

 

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