Generation gaps in the workplace present major challenges to both employees and employers. There is such an expansive difference in age between the oldest and youngest generations in today’s workplace; it is the first time in American history that businesses are experiencing four different generations working side-by-side. Not only has the workplace itself changed vastly over the years, but the different values, work ethics, lifestyles, and communication styles of current employees have made it sometimes difficult for these different generations to work together seamlessly.
It does not matter the size or specialty type of your medical practice; there is a pretty good chance that your employee populace includes at least 3-4 different generations who have difficulty at times getting along and understanding each other. And the same can be said for your employee-patient relationships. Do your employees understand why patients of a different generation may seem difficult?
Some basic differences in four generations:
- Veterans/Traditionalists. Veterans (born between 1922-1945) are the oldest generation currently in the workplace. Veterans grew up in the traditional nuclear family and have a great respect for authority. They believe in a disciplined lifestyle and have always been hard-working individuals. About 95% of those in the veteran generation are retired from the workforce, and those remaining are near retirement. Veterans prefer one-on-one communication and do not utilize constantly changing technology in the office as much as others. A veteran is more likely to walk over to your desk and engage in a face-to-face conversation or send a paper memo than to send you an email. They are generally submissive and because they have been raised with a great respect for authority, they usually avoid conflict in the work place. Veterans usually don’t mix work and family life, and they prefer to keep leave their work in the office at the end of the day.
- Baby Boomers. Despite being close in age, Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) have a vastly different work ethic than the veteran generation. Baby Boomers grew up with an optimistic outlook and during the beginning of the disintegrating traditional nuclear family. They greatly value education and believe that hard work can help you achieve any goal. Baby Boomers tend to be workaholics, spending long hours in the office and bringing their work home with them. They are always available to discuss work, welcoming clients and co-workers to call them outside of work. They are receptive to all types of interoffice communication, but especially embrace meetings that address a large group of employees at once. They are team players and appreciate these meetings to enable everyone to work together. Baby Boomers are quick to question authority, and don’t mind a conflict if they believe they are correct. They are “digital immigrants” because they did not grow up in the digital world, but they do recognize the need for new technology and learn how to use it. While the veteran generation is satisfied knowing they’ve done their job well, Baby Boomers expect to be compensated monetarily and through promotions.
- Generation X. Generation X (born between 1965-1980) tend to be skeptical of authority. They prefer a fun and informal work place, and are used to taking care of themselves due to the disappearance of the traditional nuclear family. Many Generation Xers were kids whose parents worked long hours, therefore, they spent their time at home alone after a school day. This lifestyle as a child led to the generation being more independent in the work place, preferring to work alone rather than in teams. They have a disdain of office meetings, and focus on efficiency-they get the most work possible done in their time at work so they can spend time with their families. Generation X is more cautious and conservative than Baby Boomers, and they strive for a balance between work and family. They have an entrepreneurial style and prefer direct communication with immediate feedback.
- Generation Y/Millennials. Generation Y (born between 1981-2000) is the youngest generation in the work place today. Generation Y tends to be realistic, confident, social, and outgoing. They are goal-oriented and used to multi-tasking, always looking ahead to the next project. Like Generation X, Generation Y continues to value a balance between work and family. They prefer interoffice communication such as email and they expect information to be readily available when needed. They are very goal-oriented and embrace the digital world where everything is available at the touch of a button. They resolve conflicts by the use of effective communication and applying ethical reasoning.
Understanding generation gap differences can help both employers, employees and management understand and deal with day-to-day workplace issues and how each generation may respond and work together as an effective and efficient team.
Feel free to contact us to learn more about how to bridge the gaps between generations in the work place.