Taken from a book titled "Generations at Work," identify insights or realizations ("Aha" moments) that are gained from examining differences between generations such as significant moments and cultural habits.
Baby Boomers (Born 1943 – 1960) Seminal Events: 1955 – Salk Vaccine tested 1955 – Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus 1957 – first nuclear power plant 1957 – Congress passes Civil Rights Act 1960 – birth control pills introduced 1962 – Cuban missile crisis 1962 – John Glenn circles the earth 1963 – President John Kennedy assassinated 1963 – Martin Luther King leads march on Washington, DC 1965 – Ground troops sent to Vietnam 1968 – Martin Luther King assassinated 1969 – first lunar landing 1969 – Woodstock
Core Values: Optimism, team orientation, personal gratification, health and wellness, personal growth, youth, work, involvement On the job assets: Service oriented, driven, willing to go the extra mile, good at relationships, want to please, good team players
On the job liabilities: Not budget minded, uncomfortable with conflict, overly sensitive to feedback, judgmental of those who see things differently, self centered
Markings: Designer glasses, cell phones, whatever’s trendy, BMWs Spending style: Buy now, pay later – with plastic
What they read: Business Week, People
Their humor: Doonesbury
Generation X (Born 1960-1980) Seminal Events: 1970: Women’s lib protests 1973: Watergate scandal 1976: Apple and Tandy PC’s 1978: Jonestown mass suicide 1979: 3 mile island nuclear meltdown 1980: John Lennon shot and killed 1980: Ronald Reagan inaugurated 1986: Challenger disaster 1987: Stock market plummets 1988: Terrorist bomb blows up flight 103 1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall 1991: Operation Desert Storm 1992: Rodney King beating in Los Angeles
Core Values: Diversity, thinking globally, balance, technoliteracy, fun, informality, self-reliance, pragmatism
On the job assets: Adaptable, technoliterate, independent, unintimidated by authority, creative
On the job liabilities: Impatient, poor people skills, inexperienced, cynical
Markings: Nose rings, naval rings, functional clothing, tattoos, Japanese cars Spending style: cautious, conservative.
What they read: Spin, Wired, chat room dialogue.
Their humor: Dilbert
Generation Y (Born 1980 – 2000) Seminal Events: Child focus Violence: Oklahoma City bombings, schoolyard shootings Technology Busy, overplanned lives Stress Clinton/Lewinsky Columbine High School massacre
Core Values: Optimism, civic duty, confidence, achievement, sociability, morality, street smarts, diversity
On the job assets: Collective action, optimism, tenacity, heroic spirit, multitasking capabilities, technological savvy
On the job liabilities: Need for supervision and structure, inexperience, particularly with handling difficult people issues
Markings: Polyester, pagers, retro Spending style: spend your parents money as fast as you can
What they read: Goosebumps, American Girls, chat room conversations
Their humor: Calvin and Hobbes .
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One of the interesting elements to notice in the listing is the perceived job liabilities in each group. As the workplace is becoming more heterogeneous, the reality is that the workplace is increasingly filled with individuals that have different liabilities. Managers and colleagues have to differentiate frames of reference to work with each particular group. For example, one of the liabilities of Generation X employees is that they are unintimidated by authority and have no problem expressing their own independence regardless of consequence. This is in stark opposition to the Baby Boomer, who is more conciliatory in the workplace and supposedly averse to conflict. Contrast this to the Generation Y who "needs supervision and structure." It is this realization that makes the generational insights interesting because it shows that the workplace's heterogeneity has to be mirrored in its structure and terracing so that individuals can be placed in positions to display their attributes.
The progression of technology is another interesting element to notice. As technology has become of greater relevance, it has moved from peripheral to centrally located. For example, the Baby Boomers, the first lunar landing in 1969 marked technology as an outer- directed entity. Technology was seen as something directed externally. Yet, the "technoliteracy" that is so much a part of Generation X can be seen in how technology was inner- directed. The generation's experiences were seen through the medium of television. The report of John Lennon being assassinated during "Monday Night Football" or the televised destruction of the Challenger Explosion were examples of how technology helped to create the generation's lasting images. This personalized notion of technology is even more subjectively driven in Generation Y's narrative, with its emphasis on "technology busy" and the emergence of pagers, although it seems like Generation Y's obsession with Cell Phones would be more distinctive than the pager. In each successive generation, technology has become more internally located, and serves to be an extension of one's sense of self.
Naturally, another interesting insight that is developed is how the issue of race as "the other" becomes more centrally located in each generation. The issue of Civil Rights was a topic that the Baby Boomers did not quite know how to articulate, but recognized its importance through Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement, and leadership provided by individuals like Dr. King. The Rodney King decision and aftermath helped Generation X better understand how the discussion of race permeated all of social avenues, helping to bring about a discourse that enveloped institutional and outward racism. In the comparison between both, race in America was viewed with greater analysis and indepth discourse as time had passed. The optimism that Generation Y features might connect to how there is not a significant watershed moment about race in their description. The presence of technology in the form of "chat rooms" might have transformed discussion of race to more personal understanding of human beings as opposed to a social construct. There are different reasons for this transformation, but it is interesting to note it. What will make all of these discussions more interesting is how Generation Z will shape perceptions and represent their voice, adding to a more complex and intricate nature of social identity and reality.
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