Nearly daily the business sections of many newspapers have an article on the “millennials”, which refers to those born in the early 1980s and who are also referred to as Generation Y (Y-ers). Different traits have been allocated to this entire generation from positives such as having a strong sense of community to attributes that demonstrate a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism (the generation Me) (see POST 49 which will discuss Narcissism).
It is understandable that the generation born in the 1980s gets a lot of attention from employers as they know that this generation will be the driving force in the economy by 2020 and if challenges need to be addressed to accommodate this group of future employees, it is time to do this now as this generation is entering the workforce. On the other hand, the over-the-top attention to this generation might result in skipping over some important facts. First of all the so-called Baby Boomers (1943-1960) and the Generation X (X-ers, 1960-1980) are bringing in the bucks right now and are not leaving any time soon as the time of early retirement is long gone.
I am pleased to read that I am not the only one getting sick of articles about the burden the Boomers will be on our societies and the promise of the Millennials…(see Daniel Weinzveg in “Debunking the myth of the generational gap” (www.theindifference.com).
The title of this post comes from Weinzweg, who states that being part of a generation is no longer an identifier of values, technological prowess, or an exposure to unique experiences. The accelerating pace of technological advancements have affected us all and many people regardless of age have a smart phone, use WIFI, download movies on Netflix, read e-books and use Google maps to find the location of a restaurant they spotted on Trip-adviser. All ages posts stories on FaceBook and many people have find Blogging a great outlet to share ideas and also frustrations. The younger generation might be faster to engage in Twitter and Instagram, but personally I hardly see a clear generational difference within the Twitter users.
Carrera Partners (www.carrerapartners.com.au) in “dispelling the myths about generational differences” (2013), state that the views on this topic riddle with conflict and inconsistencies, starting with the exact age which determines whether you are a Boomer , or an X-er, or Y-er. They found that 60% of Boomers are actively involved in social media and that many are learning new skills at the workplace and are not stuck at all while waiting for retirement.
The Y-ers, however have had the opportunity to obtain more formal education than their parents and therefore also expect higher incomes. They have seen their parents work hard and not always rewarded and acknowledged appropriately and so it is understandable that they want to be treated differently. Other differences are no more than stereo-types and to repeat them ad nausea do not make them more true. In fact it might create an artificial difference and a self-fulfilling prophecy, with Y-ers thinking that they should demand flexible working hours and other things, because it is written.
Jessica Stillman on Moneywatch (CBS) agrees and quotes the outcome of a survey done by the Conference Board of Canada (2009) “the survey results do not support a conclusion that there are major differences in the personality types, work-life balance desires, or learning preferences from one generation to the next…employers need to be wary of programs and practices that warn of vast gulfs between generations, and promise to elevate organisational performance through what might be termed “management by stereotype”.
Davis, Pawlowski & Houston (2016) in Work commitments of baby boomers and Gen-Y in the IT profession: Generational Differences or myth”, found no difference in work commitment based on data obtained from 382 IT workers across 23 state agencies and universities (tandfonline.com).
Constanze and colleagues (2012) in “Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A meta -analysis” (Journal of Business and Psychology, 27(4), 375-394), found that based on the analysis of 20 studies and 18 generational pairwise comparisons across four generations [including the traditionalists 1922-1942], meaningful differences do not exist on work-related variables.
Jennifer Deal of the Centre for Creative Leadership, in the economist.com (2015) states that of course there are differences, but these are based on age and not on differences between generations. Young people starting out need to learn new skills and they might find information from different sources compared to those who have been in the workforce longer. Younger people in general are also more willing to take risks and to look for new opportunities. Deal states that individual differences are always bigger than generational differences. Deal looking at the data compiled by different organisations comes to the same conclusion as Stillman: Workers regardless of when they were born want roughly the same. This is “interesting work, to be rewarded on the basis of contribution and to be given a chance to work hard and to get ahead”.