business / Contributor / generations / leadership

Dealing With the Generational Divide

 From & written by Greg Witz, researched by Jared Kligerman

Take a look at any newspaper, blog or article about the workforce today and you will see evidence of ‘the generational divide.” . This has become the biggest challenge facing man- agers and business owners. Growing up in very different times have led each generation to viewing the workplace with very different expectations – and that spells Trouble.

Gabriel Draven, a reporter for The Globe & Mail, wrote in March 2004 that Canadian companies better start accepting this generational shift as reality because it’s going to dramatically change how businesses are run and managed. No longer is a steady paycheck the motivating force. Employees from Generation X and Generation Y want something completely different from their jobs.

So what’s the best strategy?

First step is to learn and understand how the generations function and think. Countless authors and human resource professionals have voiced their opinions. One such author is Cam Marston. In his 2007 book “Motivating the ‘What’s in it for me?’ workforce”, Marden discusses the characteristics and differences between the generations (see Figure 1). Baby Boomers represented a cohort nearly double the previous generations size. Once they started to enter the workforce, it became apparent that there were more employees than positions.

This was exacerbated by the development of technology, which led to a shift in the economy from a manufacturing-base to a service and technology-base.

As such, Boomers considered themselves fortunate to find employment and recognized that they had to learn to fit in and stay in line as they were easily replaced. This bred a loyalty to the company who took a chance in hiring them, resulting in Boomers having two or three jobs in their entire career.

Marston (2007) states that Boomers tend to take a top-down hierarchal managerial approach, resulting in a director or navigator style. He suggests that this is a result of the pressure put on this generation from the high level of competition created by the limited number of positions.  Having achieved their success by following a set of  established by the top-down management style, older managers are hesitant to change a system they know that works (Marston, 2007). In other words, while they may be strong at their job, their strategic frames and values may have become blinders and dogmas that restrict their ability to successfully manage the younger generations (Sull, 1999). What does this mean for your business?

Do you follow the five steps for successful decision making? Do you foster an open and candid atmosphere, removing fear from conversations? Do you trust your team to make decisions and guide them through questions and curiosity instead of criticism? Do you reward them accordingly?

Generation-Y and Millennials, or the latch key generations, saw their parents giving their lives to the job only to see them laid off during the recession in the 1990’s.

As a byproduct of this commitment to work, Boomer and Gen-X parents were rarely available to their children, allowing them to be raised by television and technology, and tended to attempt to make up for their absence by trying to be a friend rather than a parent or role model. Understandably, the Gen-Y and Millennial generations look for a role model at work.

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