This Thursday, June 2, 2011 was the first day of this year’s Dissertation and Research Conference at Argosy University – Phoenix. Among those attending, were the great many recent and soon to be graduating doctors of the campus’ PsyD, EdD, and DBA programs to new a few, and topics ranged from at-risk students and retention, to Game Theory, Corporate Social Responsibility, and my work on Self-Esteem and Extrinsic Career Success. Asked to present, I spoke for roughly 20 minutes on a cursory overview of what the latest findings had been. To my predictable amazement, however, the conversation turned to one on the multiple generations in the workplace and how organizations can be better aligned to these shifting demands.
Since the 1960s, when the term ‘generation gap’ was first coined to describe the differences between the WWII population (the Silent Generation) and its offspring (Baby Boomers), generations have been learning how to co-exist (Simons, 2010, p. 29). To this end, Riescher (2009) of Capella University studied Management Across Time: A Study of Generational Workforce Groups (Baby Boomer and Generation X) and Leadership. To learn more of the preferred leadership style, work values, and work attitudes to name a few of these generations, the author surveyed 942 participants across nine companies. Drawing on ‘crossover effect’ as well as many suitable theories on studying generations, Riescher (2009) found, “The highest ranked characteristics were honest and receptive to people and ideas among all age groups” (p. 82). While career decisions have ‘improved’ over time, abilities to satisfy Maslow’s lower order levels also continue, values around trust and being receptive to others persist consistently across generations. Thus, although Boomers tended to think of themselves as a special generation, different from those individuals that had come before them; Generation X is typically team-oriented, banding together to socialize rather than pairing off (Simons, 2010).
The assumptions made regarding four generations employed in the same organization, sharing work processes and competing for resources sounds problematic to be sure, yet consistencies in values and a penchant for Gen-X to employ a collective style of working conducive to embracing wisdom should prove beneficial in environments seeking to channel intergenerational commitment.
Riescher, J. (2009). Management across time: A study of generational workforce groups (Baby Boomer and Generation X) and leadership. Ph.D. dissertation, Capella University, United States — Minnesota. Retrieved November 4, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 3355469).
Simons, N. (2010). Leveraging generational work styles to meet business objectives. Information Management (15352897), 44(1), 28-33. Retrieved from Academic Search Elite database.