Unify Generations by Understanding These Work Trends

Unify Generations by Understanding These Work Trends

Influential events, innovations, and technology during the moldable years of people’s lives is what defines a generation. What we experienced during those moldable years shaped our view of the world and ultimately how we perceive life and approach work. 

Unify Generations by Understanding These Work Trends

The wheel, plow, automobile, assembly line, personal computer, broadband, and smart phones impacted how entire generations viewed and approached work.

The first line of defense against widening generational gaps in your organization is to promote awareness of the different perspectives each generation holds and then build an appreciation for those perspectives. Silent Generation/Builders, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials all have unique perspectives of life, leadership, communication, and work. A firm understanding of these perspectives creates common ground and ultimately enables someone to begin closing the generational chasm.

Listed below are the four prominent generations represented in the 2017 workplace and their varying views of work.

Silent Generation/Builders (~1928-1945)

  • Summary of Work: Responsibility. At times many workers were limited geographically and had limited access to resources and development. Workers were grateful for the work they had. They showed up, didn’t ask questions, and got to work taking great pride in their contribution.
  • View of Work: Lifer. Company respect and loyalty were a high value. Individuals focused on honing a single craft.
  • Attitude of Work: You’re Lucky To Have A Job. Work isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s a privilege.

Baby Boomers (~1946-1964)

  • Summary of Work: A Place. Ask a commuter on a Monday at 8am, “Where are you going?” They’ll tell you “Work.” Until recently work was a place you went versus a space where you applied your talent. 
  • View of Work: Defined by it. Ask a Baby Boomer who they are and they will lead with their occupation. Many Baby Boomers use tangibles such as titles, salary, cars, house, etc. as indicators of success. 
  • Attitude of Work: Loyalty Is Rewarded. Careers are perceived as a ladder, each promotion serves as a stepping stone to greater reward. 

Generation X (~1965-1980)

  • Summary of Work: Means To An End. Work unlocks resources that can be spent on or with family and friends.
  • View of Work: A Tool. The term “workaholic” begins to lose it’s street cred. Achieving work-life balance becomes more appealing and accessible with the rise of technology. 
  • Attitude of Work: Work Hard, Play Hard. A balance is best.

Millennials (~1981-1997)

  • Summary of Work: A Vehicle. Work can be leveraged to arrive at a meaningful destination such as community good or a learned skill. 
  • View of Work: Fulfilling. Work should be for a greater good. Also, why separate work and life when at the end of the day it’s all just life. Strive for work-life integration.
  • Attitude of Work: Work Smart. Millennials want to have an impact yet are aware that the #2 regret of those on their deathbed is “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” Leverage technology to streamline and systemize work so that they have time for more of life. 
About the Author

Ryan Jenkins

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Internationally recognized speaker and trainer who helps organizations better lead, engage, and market to Millennials and Generation Z. He also shares his top-ranked generational and future of work insights as an Inc.com columnist.