Once those designated as Millennials (Gen Y) born roughly between 1982 and 2004, began entering the work force a phenomenon not previously known in our society took place. For the first time ever, four generations operate in the work force at the same time. Perhaps on this occasion of Labor Day 2013 we should take time out from our bbq’s, camping trips and last holiday hurrah before fall to reflect on our co-workers and celebrate the unique opportunities that lie ahead and become solution based when looking at our challenges. Our workforce is now comprised of the Traditionalist, Baby-boomer, Gen X and Millennium generations a vast age group with very different thoughts and ideas about how, when and where to work. The wide array of thought and behavior definitely poses challenges that many working today face regularly. Both the traditionalist and Baby-boomer were raised on the premise that works come first a fact staunchly ingrained in those generations. While the Gen Xers often referred to as the forgotten generation and the Millenniums have swung to the other end of the scale with self and family being number one. While this difference may not seem all that important in the scheme of things in fact it is a major source of miscommunication between co-workers breeding dissatisfaction and possible contempt within the work place.
Born in the Millennial generation these workers behaviors, values and attitudes differ specifically from previous generations in part due to the burgeoning influence of the internet, technological advancements and economic impact. A whole new business has evolve surrounding employee relations and work ethics fueled by statistics related in such surveys as those conducted from the Universities of Michigan and UCLA which relay information like: the proportion of students stating being wealthy was very important to them increasing from 45% for Baby Boomers (surveyed between 1967 and 1985) to 70% for Gen X and 75% for Millennials. Interestingly, when asked about the importance of keeping up to date with political affairs Millennials responses fell to 35% where Boomers responded at 50% to 39% for Gen X. Looking at these surveys alone it is easy to understand how these thoughts change the way we work. One group feeling being wealthy was very important to them a full 25% higher than the other group while keeping up to date on political affairs fell for the same group by 15% indicating this group does not fully accept the impact politics really plays in our daily lives. Another survey question with huge impacts for the future is un-nerving at best. When asked about the importance of developing a meaningful philosophy of life the largest decrease between the generations was revealed, from 73% for Boomers to 45% for Millennials. Another question shows a surprising decrease as well when asked about “Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment” dropped from 33% for Boomers to 21% for Millennials. *
While these surveys indicate a wide gap in understanding between the generations they also can be used to understand where your co-worker is coming from. I routinely hear I don’t know what’s wrong with the young people of today, perhaps it is not so much what is wrong with them but more where the thought process is originating. If all sides start with that question and collaborate together using strategies and ethics from all what an incredible future lies ahead. Let’s use our differences to become the great Nation we have been and continue the valued traditions of excellence of the American Worker.
* Healy, Michelle (2012-03-15). “Millennials might not be so special after all, study finds”. USA Today. Retrieved 2012-05-07