There is no doubt that there are differences in work attitudes among previous generations. Some of these gaps may be influenced by many factors such as their living environment, global significant events, change of technology and so on. To maximize productivity, managers need to design different management styles to these generations through realizing the work attitudes and expectations of each generation.
Generations before Millennial
Today, the U.S. workplace can be divided into five age groups: Traditionalist, Baby Boom, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. Each group is defined by a range of birth year which is sometimes slightly different in published scholarly article. We know that Generation Y which is our major topic is now dominant group while elder Generation Z starts looking for a job online and being an intern at a company. Besides the recent two groups, each of previous generational groups and the evolution of management styles will be explained in this part below.
Traditionalists who were born from 1925 to 1945 are also named as “Veterans”. They experienced the Great Depression, so they tend to be disciplined, obey the commands and rules, respect and show loyalty to their bosses in order to be paid great attention. They are also self-managed so that employers do not need to spend too much time managing them. Because of these characteristics, they are often generally regarded as ideal employees. However, they have retired and turn over the position to the next generations.
Baby Boomers who were born from 1946 to 1964 after World War II are the first generation to watch the world events on the television. They prefer to think about their rights first and accept the idea of equality because they experienced the speech of Martin Luther King and other social events that challenge traditional values. Similar to Traditionalists, Baby Boomers are still diligent in their jobs, but they like their employers to set a goal for them. At that time, they prefer to stay in a stable working environment, only finish their own work and reach the requirements. Task-oriented management is the best way to manage Baby Boomers in the workplace. For example, when the leader participants in the team and focuses on meeting a goal, Baby Boomers may feel that they are involved in the decision-making process and can motivate them to complete their tasks. In addition, knowledge management first appeared in this generation because the organizations wanted to transfer valuable knowledge and skills from Baby Boomers to the next generations when Baby Boomers were at the age of retirement.
Generation X (Xers) who were born from 1965 to 1979 are also called Baby Busters. They are children of the Baby Boomers and are now at the age range of 40 to 54. In this age, most of them prepare to retire. They have experienced many important changes in technology such as the invention of personal computers, so they accept changes more quickly than the previous generations, desire to make a contribution to society, and be the first generation to think in a more global scale. Different from Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, Gen Xers prefer to be loyal to their professional skills. They are independent but expect to get helpful feedback from co-workers or managers. Besides, they do not like their managers to lead them all the time and just work hard. They tend to challenge the job, work alone and get satisfaction from job. Relationship-oriented management is suitable for Gen Xers that leaders can immediately understand Xers’ details such as progress, job satisfaction and personal life. After knowing the information, leaders can quickly point out the pros and cons of Xers’ performance, and the feedback can motivate them to improve their skills.
Software Engineer at Google
Question 1. Can you describe how Google manage their younger employees (age 25-39)?
My manager manages the employees regardless of their age. The manager only cares if you can deliver what you need to deliver and career development of the employees. Question 2. Can you describe some characteristics about your manager?
My manager is chill and open about everything. We can talk about anything even if it is not work related.
Question 3. What percentage of Gen Y (age 25-39) in your company do you think?
I do not know the age percentage company wise, but my team has a lot of engineers around 25-39 years old. I'd say over 80%.
Question 4. Do you know how Google manage their elder employees (>39), different to younger one?
As far as I know, there is no difference how Google manage its employees regarding to their age.
Question 5. Do you think the management style of google needs to be improved? Why?
There is always something needs to be improved. For example, people who work hard and sometimes do not get recognized.
- Yu, H. & Miller, P. (2005). Leadership style: The X generation and baby boomers compared in different cultural contexts. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 26(1), 35-50.
- Simons, N. (2010). Leveraging generational work styles to meet business objectives. Information Management, 44(1), 28-33.
- Suzanne, M. C. & John, W. H. (2009). Generation Y: Unchartered territory. Journal of Business & Economics Research, 7, 4.
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