Differences between generational groups

As we continue go through our professional lives, we find ourselves spending more and more time at work. As we do that, the interaction with our coworkers and the ability to interact becomes an essential aspect of our jobs and a tool to successfully perform our daily routines and job duties. Each generational group is defined by the era in which they were born. Within each generation, there are differences in preferences that may range from personal values and beliefs to how each generation relates to coworkers and their preferences and individual assimilation in the organization. In this paper, I will discuss the similarities and differences between the Baby Boomers generation born between 1943 and 1960, and Generation X'ers, those born between 1960 and 1980, in which I will include myself.

I believe that the values and beliefs of the individual generational groups are a product of the era they were born in. Events and technological advances have directly impacted and continue to directly each of the generational groups. For example, generation X was directly impacted by the technological advances of the computer development, and such technological advances will continue to impact the newest generation know as the Y generation, also known as the Nexters generation. This new generation is characterized as the wired or, seamlessly connected through technology.

Wyatt, (1993) describes 6 causes used in determining a generation, 1- Traumatic or formative event. Such events may include a war or the assassination of a political leader. A defining moment for the boomer generation was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. 2- A dramatic shift in demography that may influence the distribution by the size of the members of the generation. Baby boomers grew up in a time of economic expansion and optimism. 3- Privileged interval in which generations connect to a cycle of failures or successes, period of growth and expansion offer more opportunities for upward movement within organizations raising pay scales and bringing financial independence. 4- The creation of sacred spaces, where members share a collective experience such as Woodstock. 5- Mentors that are idealized, and positively impact us at an emotional and or professional level. In the baby boomer generation Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. definitely left a lasting impression. Lastly, determining cause 6- The work of people who know and support each other, as for example Bill Gates and as an innovator of technology that which directly impacted the general characteristics of the generation X.

As discussed by Lovely S. (2005) the baby boomer generation has a lot to offer an organization. Boomers are goal oriented, team players, driven to succeed, enjoy value teamwork, are eager to please and like to receive credit and public recognition. But baby boomers also have some negative traits; they are reluctant to challenge their peers on work related matters because of their discomfort with conflict, boomers are also very sensitive to any type of feedback and are judgmental of contradicting opinions.

The X generation however, grew up during a rise of divorce, making this generation extremely independent, many growing up with single parent dwellings. They are classified as independent thinkers and welcome change. The X'rs believe that organizations will be not be around forever so, they are not fearful of jumping around different jobs and their loyalty is on the family rather than on the organization. But X'rs have many positive traits. They are techno literate, creative and easily adaptable to new projects. X'rs however, are very impatient, cynic, resistant to authority and have limited peoples skills.

Coming from a corporate environment and making the transition to the educational field, I welcomed the differences and similarities of the two generations with in my school building which is mostly comprised of baby boomers and generation X'rs.

As described by Reynolds, Bush and Geist, (2008) I would say that I best fit the description of the X generation. My organizational style best fits the following criteria; I get to the point in matters of importance, do not sugar coat the issue for me, just tell me what needs to get done and let me go do it. There is no need to constantly supervise me, and if need help or guidance I will look for it.

Although I enjoy the use of technology and welcome its use, if I find that it is not always necessary to create a power point presentation to get our point across, time is of the essence especially in situations where immediate action is required to address the situation.

As far as the my interpersonal and group dynamics, I strive on the interaction with others, I enjoy the sharing of new ideas and welcome the input of all generations, being it from a veteran, baby boomer, a X or Y generation. Nicholson, (2008) discusses the importance of mixing generations within teams to foster the sharing of knowledge and ideas. Personally, I think that the growth that I have experienced at my school building can be directly attributed to my exposure and interaction with members of other generations. In doing so, one can avoid making the same mistakes that may were previously made and will be easily identified by an older generation, a while at the same time, a younger generation will bring new and challenging ideas to the table.

Of the 2 personal behavior models discussed by Bolman and Deal, (2008) I feel that I best fit model II of the organizational style. Model I of inter personal behavior works under the assumption that organizations are competitive and dangerous, leaders are closed minded, secretive in sharing ideas and rather than admission of failure blame is placed on others. Model II however, described by Argyris and Schn (1996) and cited in Bolman and Deal, (2008) , discuss a much different approach that I feel compliments my interpersonal and group dynamics style., where members of the organization share a common goal and positively influence others, and there is open communication amongst the different hierarchy levels and across generations within the organization. Group norms are also existent, these are informal rules that control how the group members will function and interact with each other.

Group and cultural norms are an important aspect to take in consideration within organizations. Understanding such norms and how they interact amongst the generations within the organization is key to its success. Saphier and King, (1985) discuss cultural norms that affect school improvement.

Although not all of the 12 cultural norms are identifiable in my school building, there are shared traits across the generations in my school building and directly impact my organizational style and interpersonal skills. Norms that I would closely relate to, include collegiality, high expectations, involvement in the decision making, and honest, open communication. Even though collegiality is a stronger trait within the baby boomer generation, it can also be found with the generation X in which collegiality is found not across the board, but with members of the own choosing, simply because Xers tend to be very concerned with being taken advantage of. As in other traits, high expectations if feel that it is a trait more commonly found with the baby boomer generation, but also found in the X generations in a more subtle way. Where boomers covet power and status while pursuing personal gratification, Xers prefer a more informal role and do well on projects that require creativity and technical knowhow. When it comes to participating in school projects, I welcome the challenge and like to be an active participant in the decision making process. Yet, once again I find myself with overlapping traits of the boomer generation where I am motivated by competition and product and outcome oriented, rather than focusing more with the process instead of product, which is a trait of the X generation. Again with the trait on open communication, although it is not a common trait found in my generation, I welcome it and encourage it within the members of my group because it leads to a quicker resolution and progress of the project, while at the same time it builds trust and a sense of belonging within the organization, which ultimately leads to higher productivity and increased morale.

As I re-evaluate my generational traits as they relate to the traits provided in the readings, I concluded that I am the product of the combination of traits across the 2 generations, baby boomers and X generations. Although I may have been initially solely categorized as a Xer, my interaction and interpersonal experiences have unquestionably lead to my selective adaptation of traits commonly found in the baby boomer generation.

References:

  • Argyris, C., and Schn, D.A. Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method, and Practice. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996.
  • Bolman, L.G., T.E. (2003). Reframing Organizations (4th ed.). California: Jossey Bass. (Chapter 8, Interpersonal and Group dynamics)
  • Lovely, S. (2005). Creating Synergy in the Schoolhouse. The School Administrator, 30-34.
  • Nicholson, N. (2008). Empower the Next Generation, Communication world, 25, 14-18.
  • Reynolds, L, Campbell Bush, E., & Geist, R. (2008). The Gen Y Imperative. Communication World, 25, 19-22.
  • Saphier, Jon, and Matthew King. "Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures." Educational Leadership Mar. 1985: 67-74.
  • Wyatt, D. Out of the Sixties Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation. University Press, Cambridge, MA 1993.

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