For the first time in our history, multiple generations are working alongside each other. According to the Harvard Business Review, longer life expectancies and lower birth rates have created a new model of generational diversity. As the newest wave of professionals enter the workforce, more research examines the generational effects on relationships between coworkers and potential for conflict that arises.
“Baby boomers” is the most broadly recognized term across our culture. According the U.S. Census Bureau, a baby boomer was born during the demographic post World War II baby boom between 1946 -1964. Baby boomers are loyal. They stay at the same company for years and take pride in their professional accomplishments. Generation X follows the boomers. They came of age as women joined the workforce in large numbers and are considered more technologically adept. Generation Y’ers went through tough economic times in the 1980’s; as a result they are considered more independent and self-sufficient, sometimes displaying a dislike of authority and the traditional command structure.
Most of the media and research today focuses on Generation Y. Known as the millennials, America’s youngest professionals have upturned the workplace with attitudes counter to previous generations. A force of 70 million according to USA Today, Generation Y is considered to be brash, entitled, and smart. Growing up pampered, with endless amounts of resources and new technology, millennials hold a high sense of self-esteem and expect recognition. They have high expectations for themselves, their employers, and want to be challenged in their jobs. Millennial are more likely to change careers multiple times in their life than either previous generation.
The potential for conflict arises between each generation’s deeply held values. Baby boomers value the productivity of long work weeks and their identity is synonymous with their career; millennials maintain a strong sense of work-life balance, working 40 hours per week and no more, creating resentment between the ranks. The millennials confidence comes across as entitlement, as Y’s and boomers think millennials should “earn their place” rather than come in with such high expectations. Generation X’ers view boomers as inflexible to change; boomers think Generation X is too impatient, and willing to throw out traditional strategy too quickly.
The discussion on generational differences, while heavily researched, are still only generalizations. These “profiles” aren’t rigidly constructed personality characteristics, nor does it even begin to assume that every individual fits the above criteria. However, each generation is undeniably influenced by the culture, values, and political & social climate of the time they grew up in. While potentially conflict can undoubtedly brew in the workplace, there is also great opportunity for diversity and collaboration. Recognizing the diversity in your workforce early and capitalizing on generational differences between employees can foster productivity rather than conflict.
Overseeing your diverse workforce is only one of your focuses as the leader of your company. Your Michigan business faces many risks, but when those risks include legal claims and litigation, it is your directors and officers who often have the greatest exposure. That’s why our Agency offers Michigan Directors and Officers insurance. It provides much needed protection against the costs of legal defense and indemnity coverage for the business, directors and officers, and employees in suits alleging internal mismanagement. Let our experienced D&O specialists protect your assets and those of your Directors and Officers long before threats occur. Contact us today!