Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Phenomenological Study of Generational Response to Organizational Change

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Phenomenological Study of Generational Response to Organizational Change

Article excerpt

Organizations have structured programs and processes based on the needs and values of Baby Boomers, but demographics are changing as many of the 76 million Baby Boomers are reaching retirement (Dolezalek, 2007 and Jamrog, 2004). According to Martin and Tulgan (2006), Generations X and Y comprise most of the labor force and that majority will continue to increase in the coming years. This change may affect leadership and organizational effectiveness (Lancaster and Stillman, 2002). Jeffries and Hunte (2003) described the four generations in the workplace as: the Silent Generation born between 1925 and 1945, Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X born between 1965 and 1980, and Generation Y born between 1981 and 2000. These generations are at different stages of their careers.

This article presents results of a qualitative phenomenological study that explored generational response to organizational change. In the United States, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers reach age 65 daily; the youngest Baby Boomers will have reached age 65 by the year 2030 (Cohn and Taylor, 2010). Boomers are still the principal force in the workforce, but millions have already retired and millions more will depart the workforce, prior to conventional retirement age. Boomers are challenging traditional ideas about aging and retirement and this will force organizations to rethink their policies about retirement issues (Martin and Tulgan, 2006).

A study conducted by IBM Global Business Services with the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) revealed that 43% of organizations surveyed recognized that changing demographics represented a significant impact on their organizations (Lesser and Rivera, 2006). Even though organizations recognize changing demographics as an important issue, most do not know how to adjust to the changing workforce (Lesser and Rivera, 2006). In an increasingly volatile business environment, organizations face the need for change at a growing rate; leading organizations successfully through change is the ultimate leadership challenge. Although change management has received increased attention in recent years, problems in managing organizational change are prevalent (Saka, 2003). Change requires sharing a new vision and gathering input front employees at all levels to mitigate resistance and to gain support (Hurn, 2012). Leaders know little about how response to organizational change varies between generations.


In the 2010s, greater generational diversity exists in the workplace than in the past; this generational diversity introduces new challenges. Members of different generations have different life experiences that influence their world view and how they interact in organizations (Glass, 2007). The literature suggests that organizations from every industry are challenged to produce more with fewer costs and to keep up with an ever-changing environment (Kerber and Buono, 2005). According to Wischinevsky and Fairborz (2006), drastic technological, regulatory, or competitive changes modify an organization's opportunities and pose new threats that organizations must face. Increasingly, businesses in every sector are challenged to increase the ability for change, not just because of competition and technology, but also in preparation for those changes (Kerber and Buono, 2005). Organizational change involves changing an organization's direction from the present position to a more desired position, in an effort to respond better to new challenges and opportunities (Hurn, 2012).

Many strategies and theories of change are readily available to leaders; however, Marshak (2004) claimed the historical view of organizational change might limit leaders' capability to address the most recent environment leaders face. The rapidly changing business environment often has a negative or stressful effect on employees. For example, many Baby Boomers report to Generation X or Y bosses who are younger than they; which further complicates matters as members of different generations respond differently to situations (Lancaster and Stillman, 2002). …

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