Why should we care?

The trick to managing a diverse age population is to know what are the general characteristics of each group, and using the positive traits of the group's dynamics to benefit both older and younger employees.

Characteristics of each generation

For the first time in modern history four generations exist within the workplace in significant numbers, and generational issues are expected within the workplace. These generations will struggle to work with one another at times and at other times come together as an adhesive group.

Each group has been shaped by their exposures to politics, economic and social climates that they have grown up with. These exposures have created distinct values, behaviors, expectations, attitudes and biases that can be drastically different from each other.

At the very top of the blend are members of the so called "silent generation," those born before 1945. The next group is the "baby boomers," the largest and some say most spoiled group. Then we have the alphabet soup of "Generation X" and "Generation Y." These two groups entered the workplace during times of tremendous changes where computers were not some machine tucked in the basement of a large corporation but carried around in your pocket like a piece of fruit (Blackberry.)


Traditionalists are those that were born in the time frame of 1925 to 1945. This group was born before the end of World War II and is sometimes called the Silent Generation because it tends to be quieter than the Baby Boomers and isn't discussed as much (Deal, 2007). Many of these individuals are at or past retirement age; however, many of them are staying in the workforce longer. If you look at organizations controlled by people in this age range, you will see how powerful the members of this generation are.

They have been influenced by the effect of the Great Depression and the Pearl Harbor attack which called the nation into war. Resources were limited in their development years and technology consisted of radios and telephones. They were taught to save rather than spend, lived fairly sparse lives and held many military figures as heroes.

They are typically characterized by core values with an overall "duty first" approach. In the workplace they work hard, give much, ask little and, by virtue of their work ethic, tend to be trusted workers. As a result of early life experiences they remain tough-minded and very patriotic. Members of this group tend to be conformers and employment exists for the purpose of earning a living and an obligation of adulthood rather than a source of fulfillment.

Traditionalists feel that electronic forms of communication are cold and impersonal and also can be confusing. They prefer communication in a one-on-one style which includes in-person, by phone or through a personal note. In regards to work feedback, they usually feel that "no news is good news" in the sense that if they don't hear from the boss that they are doing fine.

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