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Stuck in the Middle With You: Baby Boomers vs. Gen-X vs. Gen-Y

November 6, 2013

The Great Recession of 2008 continues to play a large role in today's job culture. Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Gen Y-ers alike are all feeling the effects. Many Baby Boomers have postponed their retirement plans, holding onto their senior positions, and making it harder for Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers to move into the workforce, let alone move up the company ladder.

 

Generational Work Styles

Many studies and much research has been done regarding each generation's work-style and their positives and negatives. Baby Boomers may be most likely to hold senior positions due to age. Positives? Most likely to be loyal. Negatives? May lack adaptability. Gen X-ers may be the best team players but rank lowest in cost effectiveness and having executive presence. And Millennials may be the most tech savvy and enthusiastic about their jobs, but rank lowest on being team players.

As Baby Boomers slowly move out of the workplace and the Millennials begin flooding in, managers and leaders will do well to learn how to effectively motivate and manage Gen Y-ers.

 

Gen Y-ers may be the most brash and overconfident generation yet. "They tend to enter the workforce with very high expectations both for themselves and for their employers, and they often have plans to effect change at their company from day one." Thus, it's important to foster their need for stimulating work that allows them to grow.

 

The Millennials are often referred to as "the boomerang" or "Peter Pan" generation. About 28% will move back in with their parents after college and not become fully independent until their 30's. This leaves Millennials a lot of opportunity to job hop and find the one they're most compatible with. "This lack of fear about holding on to one job tends to make them outspoken and unafraid of the boss."

In turn, Gen Y-ers should take a step back and realize that a green employee will not necessarily be able to change the company right off the bat, even with that "ground-breaking" idea. It's also important for them to be reminded of the old adage, "don't burn bridges." Having unrealistic expectations in a work environment can have repercussions - many career opportunities are made by on-the-ground networking and Millennials will do well to create professional relationships.

 

Obviously these are generalizations, but recognizing other generations' work traits, wants, and needs can help everyone succeed in their personal careers as well as benefitting the company as a whole. As Mark Smither, VP, Strategic director for Paulsen Marketing said, "Multiple generations working together makes for a better work environment and better end product to customers."

 

The graph below summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of each generation. 

 

  Graph stats taken from: "Here Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Millennials, Gen X, And Boomers" by Vivian Giang. September 9, 2013. 

 

"Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another."

- John C. Maxwell

 

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