Baby Boomers and Generation Y at the Workplace

Introduction

Diversity of the workforce comprises not only such aspects as gender or race, but that of age. Therefore, the majorities of companies hire representatives of different generations and need to know the peculiarities of these employees to manage them effectively. Among a diversity of definitions provided by researchers for the concept of generation, that of Kupperschmidt (as cited in Parry, 2014, p. 8), who claims that a generation is an “identifiable group that shares birth years, age location, and significant life events at critical developmental stages.” Thus, people belonging to a certain generation possess some similar qualities, values and attitudes within a generation group that are their distinctive features compared to the representatives of other groups.

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These peculiarities are important for managers to minimize discrepancies and provide effective functioning of multi-generation teams (Bolman & Deal, 2017). This analysis compares two biggest present-day generation groups, Baby Boomers and Generation Y, considering such aspects as worker loyalty, life and work balance, and attitude to technology.

Description of Generations

The generation of Baby Boomers traditionally includes individuals born between 1946 and 1964 (Parry, 2014). At present, they are more than 55 years old, but still make up a significant part of the workforce. This generation grew up in optimistic times of rapid economic development in traditional families (Lovely, 2005). Although gender-specialized division of labor was decreasing at times of Baby Boomers’ development, they experienced the family model where the father’s activity was concentrated outside home and mother’s, on the contrary, inside the home. Baby Boomers value teamwork when it is organized according to a plan and follows a schedule (Lovely, 2005). Generally, they have good people skills and use them successfully in work.

Generation Y, also known as Nexters, generation Me, or Millennials, were born between 1982 and 2000 (Nicholson, 2008). As of 2015, Generation Y made 35% of the workforce and included about 54 million people (Espinoza & Ukleja, 2016). Representatives of this generation are optimistic because they were nurtured in favorable conditions. They are usually hopeful, resilient, and confident. At the time they grew up, more and more women were entering the workforce, thus contributing to the establishment of gender-egalitarian era (Parry, 2014).

Generation Y is the one with the greatest multicultural diversity and that is why its representatives are effective in multi-national teams. For this type of employees, the major value of teamwork is sharing opinions before making a decision. Finally, Generation Y representatives work well under mentoring (Lovely, 2005).

Worker Loyalty

The shift of generations in workforce is a challenge for employers. Representatives of different generations have peculiar values and attitudes to work (Nicholson, 2008). Worker loyalty is one of the important concepts for employers because it can influence the general performance of a company or an organization. Baby Boomers are responsible and loyal employees. They have more traditional values compared to other generations. In fact, they are considered to “live to work” while generation Y is focused on home and family (Parry, 2014, p. 126). Moreover, Baby Boomers are frequently considered to be workaholics.

They eagerly face challenges at work and overcome them. Baby Boomers do not frequently change their place of work. In fact, they do not support ‘job-hopping.’ They tend to believe that staying in one job for life is beneficial. Nevertheless, Generation Y employees feel easier about the change of place of work. They leave the workplace in case it does not satisfy their needs or does not provide an opportunity of professional and self-development. A peculiar feature about Generation Y is that its representatives are more committed to work that can have a significant impact on the world (Durkin, 2008).

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Life and Work Balance

Balancing time dedicated to work and personal life is a significant factor that influences employee satisfaction and retention, which, in their turn, have impact on company’s performance. Finding life and work balance can be a problem for Baby Boomers. They are dedicated workers always ready to work extra in case of necessity. Since competition is a strong motivation for them, Baby Boomers spend much time to become better than the others and to receive public recognition (Lovely, 2005).

On the whole, they follow a “live to work” concept, which means that they spend more time working at the costs of their personal and family life. Generation Y follows an opposite concept, “work to live” (Parry, 2014). Their home and leisure life are more important for Yers than their professional activity. It can be concluded that they work to provide a better living for themselves and their family. Generation Y is interested in a perfect balance of life and work. Moreover, they value harmony. Thus, it is necessary to differentiate between life and work hours for both generations under consideration because long-term overwork can lead to burnout and fatigue.

Technology

At present, technology is an integral part of almost any occupation. Although technology is important for both Baby Boomers and Generation Y, its application differs for these generations. The major discrepancy is the use of technology for communication. Generation Y is also known as the “connected generation” meaning that they use technology to contact the people they need or find the necessary information (Reynolds, Bush, & Geist, 2008).

At the same time, Baby Boomers are slower in adapting to new technologies in communication and prefer traditional ones. While Generation Y is an Internet-generation and prefers on-line communication and document exchange, Baby Boomers are more traditional and would rather use phone or send a fax message. These discrepancies can lead to problems in the workplace due to misunderstandings between employees because of their belonging to different generations. The problem can get even more serious in case the employees and a boss represent different generations. Therefore, it is necessary to balance the use of technology in workplaces according to employee preferences.

Conclusion

On the whole, the problem of generation diversity in workplace is not new. It is a concern of many managers because they need to organize the work of teams and individual workers to achieve the best results and contribute to sustainable development of a company or an organization. To make multi-generation teams efficient, it is necessary to consider their values, peculiarities of work loyalty, ability to balance work and life, and attitudes towards the use of technology.

Every generation is unique, with its experiences, development strategies, and the adopted innovations that stimulate further advancements. Consequently, it is important to accept every generation as it is, with some of their peculiarities, and integrate their values with the company’s ones. Such attention to staff represented by different generations will allow successful performance and contribute to the company’s goal fulfilment.

References

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2017). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Durkin, D. (2008). Youth movement. Communication World. Web.

Espinoza, C., & Ukleja, M. (2016). Managing the Millennials: Discover the core competencies for managing today’s workforce. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Lovely, S. (2005). Creating synergy in the schoolhouse. The School Administrator, 62(8), 30-34.

Nicholson, N. (2008). Empower the next generation. Communication World. Web.

Parry, M. (Ed.). (2014). Generational diversity at work: new research perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.

Reynolds, L., Bush, C. E., & Geist, R. (2008). The gen Y imperative. Communication World. Web.

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