Coping with the “Generation Gap” can be a challenge, particularly in the workplace. Each generation brings with it a unique perspective molded by the economic, political, and social events of its time. Generational differences in communication, task performance, and core values have the potential to either enrich the work environment or create uncomfortable friction.
Creating cross-generational understanding requires respect for the unique contributions of each generation. Psychologist Constance Patterson, PhD, offers these insights into what motivates each generation and how to gain their cooperation:
- Traditionalists (1922-43) play fair, are hardworking and dependable, and appreciate recognition of their experience. The personal touch is important. They prefer face-to-face communication and hand-written notes.
Motivator: “Your experience is respected.”
- Baby boomers (1943-63) identify with their job. Loyal team players with a strong work ethic, they like to be involved in decision making, are willing to work long hours, but dislike change. They desire recognition and reward for hard work. They value social interaction and prefer handwritten communication and phone calls. Motivator: “Your contribution is important to our success.”
- Gen Xers (1964-80) can be impatient, skeptical and unimpressed by tradition, but they’re determined to do a good job. These tech-savvy multi-taskers need constructive feedback but resent micromanaging. They prefer informality, like to have fun and favor e-mail communication. Bonus pay is expected for accomplishments. Work/life balance is important and busy personal lives make them less interested in working long hours.
Motivator: “Your technical expertise is a big asset.”
- Millennials (1980-2000) are less patient, more self-oriented and less likely to remain in unhappy work situations. They’re focused on gaining the skills and education necessary to achieve personal goals. Mentoring is important and they pair well with seniors. They prefer instant communication and feedback.
Motivator: “You’ll be collaborating with bright, creative people.”
Effective multi-generational work environments value different viewpoints, encourage active listening, clearly define roles, share expertise, value hard work, share recognition, and remember to have fun.
The following appeared in an issue of Maxim’s nursing eNewsletter, Nursing Now. To receive news in your e-mail inbox each month, sign up today.