The term “generation gap” was first coined in the 1960s when gaping differences between the WWII’s Silent Generation and its Baby Boomer offspring challenged the way they lived and worked together. In the workplace, generational gaps are an ever-evolving source for potential tension, and the present-day gap between Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials is no exception.
In 2009, a survey by Lee Hecht Harrison found that 60% of Baby Boomer employers were experiencing difficulty with their younger employees. But the gap goes two-ways: While 70% of older workers are dismissive of Millennials and their abilities, fully 50% of younger workers are dismissive of what their older counterparts have to offer. What gives?
According to Psychology Today, Generation X is made of hard-working former latch-key kids who believe work and family are to be separated entirely. They are skeptical, pragmatic and practical, self-reliant, independent and individualistic. Generation Y, or Millennials, on the other hand, have high demands and even higher expectations. They want to work for companies that are socially responsible and they want a balanced life, even if it means blending their work and home lives. As Generation X moves into management, they are faced with the challenges of relating to and making the most of their younger workforce.
Today, smart leadership is getting it right by aligning job duties and expectations with the values shared by Generation Y’ers – in effect, boosting productivity, lifting morale, and turning the generational gap into a profitable dynamic. Consider these options: