9/08/2007

Baby Boomer Versus Generation X

When I read this article I soon realized that the facts are right, but I am having a hard time deciding if these facts are good or bad. The article points out the main differences between the "Traditional" workplace and the "New Generation" workplace. For instance, in the traditional workplace an employee's promotion is based off of longevity with the company. Whereas, the new generation expects promotion based on performance. I find myself caught in the middle feeling that both are extremely important. You want your employees to perform their best, but you also want them to stick around to avoid high turnover and unnecessary training costs. Is it possible to promote both, and if so, should you? Next, a traditional employee waits to be told what to do and then obeys. Whereas, the new generation has initiative to move forward on their own, but will challenge authority when questioned. Which is worse? That may depend on what type of manager you are. Finally, respect of a traditional employee is based on position/title. Whereas, the new generation does not give respect unless they feel it has been earned. Is one method right or wrong? Maybe as an employee you should work hard to earn respect while at the same time respecting everyone else, especially those who are in positions higher than your own.

9 comments:

Dr. Tufte said...

I like everything Dominic said.

As to the article itself, I'm not so sure.

I'm very dubious about items I read like this whose only data is a single label/category (GenX, 19-34). Is there actually any quantifiable evidence that Gen X is actually different from earlier generations? If not, all of this is hearsay, cute bullet list or not.

These demographic labels are extremely arbitrary. If you dig, you find out that they are created as content on the part of marketing firms (which isn't bad in and of itself), and then pushed primarily by those same marketing firms. They are concepts that are taken as true because they are common, not because they are deep.

FWIW: the author also has the definition of Gen X incorrect. It's supposed to start with 1965, making the oldest Gen Xers 42. The use of the 19-34 age bracket corresponds to a standard cohort used in marketing analysis such as Nielson reports.

Hailey said...

Obviously Dr. Tufte already pointed out all of the faults in the validity of the article, but I have seen some of these concepts at play in my workplace.
I have noticed the difference between older and younger employees at the company where I work. It seems like the younger generation is much more vocal and firm about what it wants from a job. Younger employees seem to know how many opportunities are out there, so if they are not enjoying a job or advancing the way they would like in a position, there is no reason for them to stay where they are. On the other side of things, there are older employees who have worked for the same company for over 30 years. They have always been there, and they are afraid to speak their voice because they are afraid they will be let go. With the amount of education that was necessary back then, they feel they are behind the new generation. Years of experience mean nothing to them, so unless they hold a management position they are usually quiet about the decisions being made and the direction of the company.
While the facts may not be exactly correct, there is a point to all of this. There is a bit of truth to the article and its claims about the younger generation.

Dr. Tufte said...

No I haven't!

I do wonder how much of what Hailey says is because the younger workers haven't been through many recessions? We complain a lot about the economy, but the fact is that we've only had 2 recessions in the last 25 years, and both of them were mild.

Hayden said...

The article has many points that could be true, but it is difficult to measure them. Traditional (baby boomers) v. Generation X shouldn't be how it is in the work place. If a company is able to retain employees of all age groups, regardless of their perspectives, the company could benefit. With different ideas coming from both generations, a company could actually gain a competitive edge on others because of the variety of people and innovation that may be created by cohesiveness of different age groups. As for the article, I do agree that generation X is more willing to leave a job if they aren't satisfed. Basically, loyalty to a company is becoming uncommon.

Timothy said...

I was recently asked to manage the department I work in because I just happened to have the best performance numbers in the deparment and I am faced with an interesting mix of people. At 27, I am easily the youngest person with the least amount of experience in my department. We have almost a 50/50 mix of what the article terms Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The baby boomers seem to be driven by years in service while the younger generation is driven by performance. In addition to this new position, our deparment is making some changes that will favor the performance driven employees which I see as a big change from the old ways our deparment used to work. As for ways to make both the boomers and the Xers work under this new performance based style of management, I'm open to any suggestions because at this point, I can see clearly the validity of the argument in this article and Dominic's questions regarding what is best.

Dr. Tufte said...

-1 on Timothy for a spelling error (waived).

It's time to talk about backloading. This is the idea that you pay workers less when they are new and more as they accumulate seniority as a strategy to avoid the fixed costs of training new employees. Backloading is the rule rather than the exception.

This means that young workers will always perceive themselves as underpaid, and will be more interested in gettting paid for performance rather than seniority.

My suspicion in all of this is that if we dug up a discussion of this issue from a generation or two ago, that we would find the same arguments (suggesting that it has nothing at all to do with Generation X).

Sophie said...

This article reminded me of sitting in an old folks home where every resident there is telling you how it was back in their day when people worked harder for their money and respected their elders more. No matter how much complaining these old folks do though, it does not stop the change from happening. Therefore, it is better to realize that things are always going to be changing in the workforce, and this is always going to threaten those that are the most resilient to the change. Deal with it!

William said...

Dr. Tufte,
It seems to me that there has to be some truth to labeling/categorizing age groups. I think there is some validity to it and I think that managers can use this information to help them. If there was no truth to this, then marketing companies would not go through the work of researching it and companies would not listen to their results if it was all false. However, I also think that not every person will necessarily fall into the exact category, but this is rather a generalization.

Dr. Tufte said...

I'm sympathetic to this view William - I just haven't seen solid evidence yet. In fact, what people have shown me - and their proud of this - often looks like crap. That bugs me.