The phrase “generation gap” implies that a great chasm exists between the old and the young, and that it must be immensely difficult to overcome. Kingsley Davis first wrote about it (in a business sense) in 1940. He thought that rapid social change was responsible for this parent-child-youth type of conflict. His initial article spurred a massive amount of research about the generation gap, with a range of results.
There is a perception that one generation is vastly different from the other in terms of values, attitudes, and lifestyle; that cross-generationally, we do not have things in common. When we step back and really examine the situation however, although the conditions do exist, they are actually not that common. What we see are the ways that previous generations have great influence on younger generations despite also having differences, and the ongoing idea that each generation cannot possibly meet the needs of the other.
As a result, we need to view the gap as something that is far shallower and less confrontational than the media or business writers generally portray. In reality, both in the workplace and at home, there is lots of reciprocity between the generations, especially once they come to know and understand one another, even just a little.
The presence of difference comes out of several things that we know for sure. For example, there are currently four, and sometimes even five generations, working in one place. Each generation has specific defining characteristics about how they approach life, not just work.
Here is the breakdown:
Silent Generation (sometimes called Radio Babies), born 1930-1945. Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964 in the US, to 1966 in Canada, to 1971 in the United Kingdom. Generation X, born 1965-1976. Generation Y, born 1977-1985. Millennials, born 1986 and later.
There was a period in the late 1990s when managers would hire just about anyone with a heartbeat to fill a position. At that time, the United States was short approximately three to four million workers. By 2010, they will be short 10 million workers because the shift of Baby Boomers out of the workforce will continue, and there are far less people coming behind them.
In addition to what is a purely physical numbers game, there are other things to consider. About 80% of people in the workforce don’t want to go to work at the beginning of their workweek, and 97% of them would change occupations if they became financially independent.
Author: Matthew Coppola, Managing Director of Client Centric.
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