Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Contrasting Work Values of Baby Boomers and Generation X Rural Public School Principals

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Contrasting Work Values of Baby Boomers and Generation X Rural Public School Principals

Article excerpt


The American workforce is changing, and the interactions among different generations of American workers may affect workplace interactions (Sullivan, Forret, Carraher, & Maineriero, 2009). The diversity in ages in the workplace has created generations, or cohorts, of people working together. According to Zemke, Raines, and Filipczak (1999), these generations share key life experiences and have been defined by demographers using different delineating characteristics and periods. Sullivan et al. (2009) suggested that "individuals from a respective generation can be differentiated from members of other generations not only by shared birth years but also by the unique social and historical experiences of the members' youths which permanently influenced their characteristics" (p. 286). Two age ranges of principals were included in the current study: Baby Boomers comprising of those born from 1943-1960, and Generation Xers who were born from 1960-1980.

According to Eisner (2005), generational cohorts exhibit different characteristics that affect work attitudes and relationships. Kaplan and Taoka (2005) maintained that keeping generational cohorts happy in the workforce is a task unique to each cohort. Organizational leaders, whether their organizations are business or education-based, must regard the dissimilarities between age cohorts as relevant (Kaplan & Taoka, 2005). Kimball (2011) explored how the principal's role as instructional manager is secondary to the role as strategic talent manager within the school environment. Thus, principals are responsible for hiring teaching staff that fit in with the schools' instructional mission (Kimball, 2011).

Motivation and retention problems among school principals are in part the result of generational differences between the work values of Baby Boomer and Generation X cohorts of principals (D'Amato & Herzfeldt, 2008). These cohort issues produce discord within school districts and on campuses by contributing to differences in work values among districts of principals (Myers & Davis, 2012). Kimball (2011) reported that principals are responsible for managing staff as well as the work environment of the schools where they are administrators. The work values of the principals are crucial to the individual school as well as to the school district. Crampton and Hodge (2007) assessed the current literature on generational differences and stressed the need for additional research in the field. This is supported by Chen and Choi (2008) who assert that generational studies are needed because "understanding work value differences and similarities among older and younger managers is vital for human resource strategies, e.g. recruitment and employee retention." (p. 596)

Naso (2011) discussed the significance of choosing principals who will improve schools and acclimatize well into established educational environments. New principals have the responsibility of assessing school climate, policies, and employee relations while quickly creating meaningful working collaborations. According to Naso (2011), school district administrators need to be wary of potential school principals who advocate strongly for a particular theory without regard to other beliefs and practices that may be a better fit for the specific school environment. Principals implement change instead of merely relying on theory, and they must be able to adapt to their particular school climate.


This study was grounded in two social science theories: the Strauss-Howe generational cohort theory and Bass's transformational leadership theory, since the work values of two generations of public school leaders were examined Strauss and Howe (1991) defined a generation as "a cohort-group whose length approximates the span of a phase of life and whose boundaries are fixed by peer personality." (p.60) In Bass's transformational leadership theory, transformational leaders are insightful, vital, and holistically focused while they inspire their organizational followers to act similarly. …

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