Magazine article American Nurse Today

A Kinder, Gentler Workplace, Part 3: The Generation Gap

Magazine article American Nurse Today

A Kinder, Gentler Workplace, Part 3: The Generation Gap

Article excerpt

"We shall a new rule of life make: a little kinder than is necessary be!' Yoda-speak for a famous quote from Peter Pan creator J. M.Barrie

PROBLEMS CAN ARISE from the differing mindsets and communication styles of workers born in different eras. "Managing a multigenerational workforce is an art," leadership strategist Eric J. McNulty wrote in the Harvard Business Review. "Young workers want to make a quick impact, the middle generation needs to believe in the mission, and older employees don't like ambivalence."

Frictions may be aggravated by new technology and work patterns that mix workers of different ages in ever-changing teams. In today's workforce, the most prevalent generations are:

* Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), who are competitive and think workers should pay their dues

* Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1977), who tend to be skeptical and independent-minded

* Gen Yers (born in 1978 or later), who favor teamwork, feedback, and technology.

As Boomers retire, they'll be replaced by Gen Xers and Gen Yers; many in the latter group are multitasking, technology-dependent individuals who create their own media and ways of interacting.

Both employees and managers need to understand the work values, communication preferences, and motivational differences of each generation--and must avoid confusing generational traits with such character flaws as immaturity, laziness, and intractability. Many Boomers may consider a 60-hour work week a prerequisite to achieving success, whereas many hard-working Gen Xers may prefer a more balanced life with reasonable working hours and weekends off (with occasional overtime).

Gen Yers, on the other hand, hate meetings, prefer digital communication, and value freedom and flexibility over work-life balance. They may voluntarily choose to work on weekends and evenings--sometimes in unorthodox places, like Starbucks, where you might find them on their computers, staying in touch through wearable technologies.

Among healthcare workers, the top causes of intergenerational conflict are:

* an aging workforce that doesn't tolerate fools gladly (typical of Baby Boomers)

* continuation of historically embedded power inequities (the Mature or Silent Generation)

* lack of conflict-management training (Gen Xers)

* intolerance for the values and prejudices of older generations (Gen Yers). …

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