What do we know about generational differences in organizational science and practice?
Can what we know about generational differences help you, as an employee, to build communication with colleagues more effectively, or as a leader to be more aware and better perceived by your employees?
Generation theory: Generations X, Y, Z, Alpha.
What happens in geopolitics and economics influences the formation of a person’s personality and determines his or her behavior.
According to the theory, every 20–25 years, a new generation of people is born with character traits that distinguish them from all the others, and then this is repeated in subsequent generations.
In each country, these dates vary slightly depending on the arrival of new technologies and the opening of old bans. So the approximate dates are ( ±4 years):
Silent Generation 1923–1945 Baby boomers 1946–1964 Generation X 1965–1981 Generation Y 1981–2000 Generation Z 2000–2018 Generation Alpha 2018 — now
The silent generation is the people who have survived the war or, perhaps, more than one, depression. Back in the days, they were young, there was a constant fear of survival. In times of peace, there was anxiety that someone would come and take them or their children for what was said or done wrong or not accepted.
Constant fear, these people were always ready to run out of their house with one suitcase. They value hard work, dedication and practicality. They respect elders, their titles and achievements. If there are such people on your team or company, and they have not retired yet, their trust must be earned so that they would open to you. Once you act ambiguously with your promises to this generation at work, , it will be very difficult for them to open up to you next time.
Baby boomer. They love stability and predictability. Do everything like everyone else, don’t stand out in anything, otherwise they will judge you or think that you are wrong, depending on the opinions of others. Fear of being punished for your thoughts. They work diligently and regularly, in parallel they see what is wrong, what is missing, what was promised and wasn’t done. Sometimes they, fearing punishment, do not know how to turn dissatisfaction into requests or initiate things.
Generation X is indicated by curiosity about everything new, dedication to work that promotes them; work in a mode of eternal challenge. For them, the result, material benefits and efficiency are important. They do not tolerate mistakes and negligence; they are characterized by a pathologically high degree of responsibility. This generation is afraid of poverty; money means a lot to them and solves many issues. The X generation now holds leadership positions in most corporations.
Generation Y is optimistic about themselves in terms of global world processes, they tend to give less categorical assertions and the interests of the group are important to them, but they are not ready to retreat for this for the sake of their own values. Moreover, their values lie not so deeply in the material sphere as in self-improvement.
The attitude to the material world of this generation is different than that of generation X, because the social status of Ys is not at all connected with the concept of ownership in terms of property.
Material benefits for them are not means of accumulation, but a tool for the implementation of their plans or accomplishments. They easily communicate with other people, launch start-ups. The difference in nationality, sexual orientation, political views does not greatly affect them, the whole world is open to them and they appreciate it.
Generation Z values learning, self-development, creativity, honesty, realism and openness most of all. They turn their hobby into a source of stable income by launching start-ups. These people want to create something new, to change the market. Z prioritize their life outside the office with the ability to work wherever they can manage their time. For them, it is much more important that the work is done efficiently, regardless of where and when they perform their duties. Generation Z do not differ in increased loyalty to the company, they can easily move from one to another. However, it is this generation that is often the engine of everything new, thanks to its flexible mind and excellent adaptability. They build successful businesses remotely in different cities, countries and continents.
Generation ALPHA is still children, this generation has a different intellect. They hold in high esteem personalization and individual approach, and from the cradle they use all sorts of gadgets, gaining Internet skills before they start reading and writing. They have high moral standards and a subtle sense of falsehood. Alpha people appreciate a transparent world without any secrets or falsehoods. The intuition on which they rely is strongly developed.
The characteristic qualities of generations were formed under the influence of depressions, wars, the emergence of new types of information, the development of television and the Internet.
Some people have been affected by migration to other countries or changes in social institutions in their countries:
a family institute What are the family rules? We all live together (all generations), is it normal to tell my father/tribal leader/party representative that my husband isn’t a good husband. ;
the ideological platform How to behave correctly, what is valuable, what is not, and how to respond when you act in an uncommon way;
power institute Who are the people who can make decisions in our life ?— our parents, doctors, teachers;
religious institute Who controls the information? Religion or/and political power.
Why do we analyze all these generations in such details? Why do we need to know this information and why it is important for a leader, and not only? Since some people grew up in a certain reality, in a certain childhood, youth, and this is how the world looks like to them, and this world is cyclical — they are waiting for the next war, horror, stock exchange collapse or depreciation of money. This fear drives their freedom to express thoughts and to show initiative.
We can notice that since Generation Y honesty, uncharacteristic standards have become more important for the next generations. They can forgive you if you are missing some information, but not double standards or lying. Hypocrisy kills their motivation. Another quality of the Y and younger generations is lightness, the ability to let go, forgive, not get hung up, and move forward, move faster.
If you are leading the Y or younger generation, start developing your flexibility, your ability to control and tune the orchestra (your team/organization), when the piano can suddenly turn into an organ, a guitar into an electric guitar, or a trombone into a pipe.
Please, after reading this article don’t come to your colleague or team member and say — “I know that you were born in 1969, so you are generation X, you do not tolerate mistakes and negligence, don’t you?”. Be sensitive with categorizing people.