Leadership Style And Behavior Among Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y
Generation Y (born 1981 and 2000) is young worker, Generation X (born 1965-1980) is middle generation and Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964) is older employers. Usually young workers want to make a quick impact, the middle generation needs to believe in the mission, and older employees don’t like ambivalence. It is important organization to take time and build the trusting relationship where each generation brings ahead their potentials and works towards the organization goal.
The leaders should recognize the different work characteristics between generational groups and apply leadership styles that will positively contribute to employee motivation. As a result, due to the shifting nature of the job/task itself and the changing nature of subordinate characteristics and behavior. Leadership styles have also had to make changes. Accordingly, a task-oriented leadership style is more acceptable to Baby boomers but Generation X and Generation Y prefer to be managed under a relationship-oriented leadership style. Introduction
The workplace has changed dramatically in recent years. Today’s workforce can be divided into three distinct groups of people. There are the Baby boomers (Born 1946 and 1964), Generation X ( born 1965-1980) and Generation Y (Born 1981-2000, Millennial) . In the modern workforce, employees from many different generations are working together and closely both with people who are as young as their children and as old as their parents. Thus, managers are realizing that generation and age has just as much to do with employees’ hope, learning styles and expectation and other characteristics.
For each generation there are particular experiences that mold specific preferences, expectations, beliefs and work style. Therefore, how these have impacted their work behavior and leadership styles. Understanding expectations and what emotion is driving their behavior is far more productive as oppose to jumping to a judgment based on a stereotype and leadership style differences. Somehow, learning how to communicate with the different generations can eliminate many major confrontations and misunderstandings in the workplace such as having problem with communication, leadership, relationships, and many more.
The work characteristics of these generational group are an important issue for their leaders. It is known that employees with different work characteristics will be more effective and productive with different leadership styles (Tulgan, 1996). The investigation of work behavior and the corollary leadership style is therefore an important area for leaders who must lead and motivate the generational groups. 1. 0 Work Behavior Characteristic between Baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. 1. 1 Baby Boomers These are the post-war children, born between 1946 and 1964.
Born in harsher, more restrictive times, this generation is characterized by either their early experiences of rationing or the post-war austerity of their parents, and view the workplace in terms of career jobs which they expect to hold for many years. They probably had one black and white television at home. Baby boomers are comfortable with manual working methods and hard work, but need to focus on one task at a time, which they like to follow to its conclusion. They expect a level of commitment and job security from their employers, and are driven as much by a sense of duty and pride to do a good job as by their salaries.
Smart work clothing is essential, as is being early for shifts. The Baby Boomers rarely complain about their work load or other members of staff. Baby boomers tend to be more diligent on the job and prefer a more stable working environment (Loomis, 2000). The Baby boomers tend to work hard and are generally loyal to their employer. Baby boomers are willing and expecting to work with others. In term of leadership style, Baby boomers accept the chain of command. In addition, they expect their managers to give direction and to lead them towards organizational goals.
They prefer teamwork directed by leaders in positional authority, and a task-oriented leadership style. Baby boomers are however, not highly technologically savvy, nor do they generally like change ( Raths, 1999). 1. 2 Generation X Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X has strong ties to the Baby Boomers, but grew up in more prosperous times. As children, this generation was busy playing outside with their friends – home was a place for dinner and sleep. They share a sense of respect and duty similar to their older counterparts, and also prefer to keep home and work separate.
However, they are more comfortable using technology even though their lack of formative education in IT means that most are self-taught or have developed their skills in the workplace. They had a colour TV at home, and probably more than one. They can be known as, “techno-immigrants?. When researching projects and ideas, they dig deep and are thorough in their investigations. This group will report problems they see to managers, but are unlikely to be overly critical or pushy. In terms of employment, this group realizes that jobs for life are rare, but still thinks in five-to-ten year blocks.
Holiday, pay rises, bonuses and sense of working for a successful company help drive these people. Work values for the X-ers emphasize personal satisfaction rather than just working hard. They tend to look for any opportunities to improve their working skills. They are loyal to their profession rather than to their employer. They are more individualistic. They have a high need for autonomy and flexibility in their lifestyle and jobs thus less need for leadership. They need self achievement from their job and basic needs at the same time and they do not want their work to impact negatively on their quality of life.
Thus, they are less devoted to their jobs, and less job involvement occurs. In fact, job satisfaction is more important than promotion for the Xer. This is because Xers focus on life outside the job, their leisure, family, lifestyle and other interests are as important as their work. Xers can accept an unwanted or less desirable promotion if this suits their lifestyle. However they are not willing to make the sacrifices demanded by their organizations and turn into ‘workaholics’ ( Huichun & Miller, 2005). 1. 3 Generation Y These techno-natives were born between 1981-2000 and grew up with laptops at home and at school.
This group of workers are only just entering the workplace and therefore their influence at this time is still emerging. Consequently, Generation Y believes anything is possible with technology, and will use all available resources to teach themselves the skills which they require. Their childhoods were less outdoor orientated than previous generations, with the proliferation of technology in the home contributing to families increasingly spending their time in separate rooms, meaning that work and friends are often deemed more important than relatives.
They were born of boomer parents and early X-ers into the current high-tech. Although the youngest workers, they represent the most technologically adept. They are fast learners and tend to be impatient (Zemke et al. , 2000) Generation Y tell managers if they are unhappy with anything. The line between work and home is blurred. Leaving university owing tens of thousands of pounds and faced with the apparent futility of meeting the debt many take the short term view and treat money as a disposable commodity.
This carefree attitude carries into the workplace which has become a place to be with friends, not to earn money. Information is gathered by skimming and grabbing knowledge from friends through social networking and community forums. Multi-tasking is second nature, which also means that attention spans are short. Generation Y members know what they are worth, and treat each job as a stepping stone to the next stage in their career, with acquisition of new skills and experiences as important to them as earning more money. 2. 0 The Challenge The challenge is how to manage multigenerational workforces.
Young workers want to make a quick impact, the middle generation needs to believe in the mission, and older employees don’t like ambivalence. Understanding differences between the generations is fundamental in building successful multigenerational workplace. Then the approach to finding balance between groups is to teach tolerance and encourage mutual understanding. Here is a brief description on characteristic of each generation (United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, 2013) and perception of other generations (from study Gursoy et al. (2008). 2. 1 Characteristics of each generation :
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964) Generation X ( Born 1965-1980) Generation Y , Millennials (Born 1981-2000) Big picture/ systems in place Bring fresh perspective Do not respect the titles Disapprove absolutes and structure Optimism team orientation Uncomfortable with conflict Personal growth Sensitive to feedback Health and wellness Personal gratification Positive attitude Impatience Goal orientated Multi-tasking Thinking Globally Self-reliance Flexible hours Informal work environment Just a job Tehno-literal Informal-balance Give them a lot to do and freedom to do their way Question the authority
Confidence Sociability Morality Street Smart Diversity Collective action heroic spirit Tenacity Technological savvy Lack of skills for dealing with difficult people Need flexibility 2. 2 Perception of other generations TABLE 1 Perceptions of the Baby Boomers of other generations (a) Perceptions of Managers from the Boomers Generation of the X-ers and Millennials: They have no work ethic They are just slackers He has been here 6 months and he wants a promotion They are not very reliable They are not consistent They do not know how to dress for work They keep saying, ‘‘It is not my job’’
They see this job as a stepping stone to a better job They do not know how to dress up They have way too many piercing and tattoos (b) Perceptions of the Boomer employees of their Generation X managers: They are whipper-snapper babies They do not have the experience. They need to gain a lot of experience They do not know how to manage They do not respect life experiences They work too hard to try to prove themselves They lack people skills They do not know how hard employees work. Company should develop a program where managers walk in employees’ shoes They rely on technology too much
Everything is in E-mail They are not consistent Table 2 Perceptions of the Generation X of other generations (a) Perceptions of the Generation X of employees from the Millennial Generation: They have no sense of urgency They lack ownership—‘‘not my job’’ You have to teach them a lot more—iron uniform, good customer service, do more than the minimum They seem to lack common sense/might be book smart They are quick learners They are in search of role models. They look to managers/supervisors for knowledge They are overconfident They want constant praise/acknowledgement
They want to be thanked for doing what they are supposed to be doing They are very high maintenance They do not understand that this is a business driven by guests (b) Perceptions of the Generation X of employees from the Baby Boomer Generation: They are set in their ways. They do not like change Dealing with them and convincing them to do something requires extra time and effort They have very good work ethics They are slow. They learn at a slower rate Technology is very challenging for them They like caring for people, they are good with customers They are very customer oriented
They are very responsible (c) Perceptions of the Generation X of their managers from the Baby Boomer Generation: They cut too many corners in order to reach financial goals to get their bonuses They are very loyal to the company They fear change They are not very appreciative of their subordinates They manage from their offices. They need to get out of the office and lead by example They are not part of the team. They fail to step in and help out when needed. They are basically administrators They do nothing to get to know employees They are not up to date
From study Gursoy et al. (2008), as shown in Table 1, perceptions of the Baby Boomers of other generations as presented, managers from Boomers have a very low opinion of Generation X and Generation Y ( Millennial). Boomers managers thinks that younger employees have no work ethic and they are “slackers”. Moreover, Boomers employees do not have very high opinions of their Gen X managers because Baby boomers thinks that their Gen X managers do not have the experience to manage and that X-ers lack people skills and rely on technology too much. Also from study Gursoy et al.
(2008), as shown in Table 2, perceptions of the Generation X of other generations. Its represent X-ers’ perceptions of employees and managers from the Boomer generation. The X-ers do not think very highly of Millennial employees. The X-ers think Millennials do not understand the nature of the business and they are slackers, but admit that Millennials are very quick learners. X-ers have very high respect employees from the Baby Boomer Generation. However , the X-ers believe that it is hard to gain the Boomer employees’ respect. The X-ers also believe that the Boomer employees are slow learners and not very good with technology.
Moreover, when it comes to the X-ers’ perceptions of their Boomer managers, they stereotype the boomer manager as typical administrators, someone who manages from his or her office. This might be the reason why the X-ers think their Boomers managers are not good team players. Then, Boomer managers are too financially driven and they cut too many budget in order to reach minimum budget. Essentially, the Generation X see Boomers Managers as being out of date who still think that the rules and principle worked in the last century are still likely to work because they fear change. 3. 0 Leadership Styles for Different Generational Groups
With alarming retirements of Baby Boomers, it will be increasingly important for organizations to attract and retain quality employees. In order to do so, we will need to develop new standards of human resource management in order to successfully connect with a multi-generational workforce. Workplace policies and leadership approaches may need to become flexible in addressing issues related to inclusiveness, recognition and alignment of generational values of workers in order to create greater work-life balance (Deloitte, 2006). Bridging the generation gap requires acknowledging that everyone is different.
Generational differences are likely to be a source of frustration for leaders if they see those differences as potential problem areas (Lancester and Stillman, 2002). That is why if the leaders learn to appreciate those differences by focusing on positive attributes and take time to consider the strengths each co-worker brings to the workplace, they are likely to manage those differences effectively. So, every organizations should develop strategies that can be employed by the Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers to build better working relationships with each other ( Stencel, 2001). Also with Generation Y-ers.
Although Generation Y-ers workers are only just entering the workplace and therefore their influence at this time is still emerging. Successful leaders are said to be able to adapt their leadership style to meet subordinates’ needs and particular situation (Huichun & Miller, 2005). Since a large proportion of the workforce is under the age of 35 in today’s workforce, and today’s Generation X are strongly aware of changes in the labour market, their values and attitudes are often a reflection of their living environment. They look for opportunities and eager to improve their work skills compared to pervious generations.
Those characteristic require different leadership styles than people from other generations with less education and skill (Tulgan, 1996) . Baby boomers were oriented into workplaces when corporate loyalty was highly valued and they expected long careers in the one organization. Then again, the generation X argued as being more resourceful, individualistic and irreverent than the Baby Boomers. In the workplace they aware of their rights and skill and less concerned with long term career goals and loyalty. They are easier to recruit but harder to retain in the organization (Huichun & Miller, 2005).
Whereas Generation Y, now just entering the workforce and they are technically skilled at a young age and IT aware. They are more individualistic than the X-ers, are comfortable at being a member of the global village and are very idealistic (Tulgan, 1996). So, knowledge workers see themselves more as ‘associates’ of the organization rather than ‘employees’. Thus, knowledge workers need to work in partnership more with their leaders rather than be managed by them. These characteristics will have implications for how leaders can influence these workers. Then, this emphasis changed to collaborative leadership.
As a result, due to the shifting nature of the job/task itself and the changing nature of subordinate characteristics and behavior. Leadership styles have also had to make changes. Some experts recommend a task-oriented leadership style is more suitable to manage Baby Boomers and for Generation X, a relationship oriented leadership style is most appropriate (Mcgregor, 1996). This has demonstrated the changes reflected in organizations and how leadership styles have had to adapt to these changes in order to meet the emerging aspirations of different generational workers.
It seems likely that a leader’s style is directly influenced by the work characteristics of the employees being managed. As shown in Table 3. TABLE 3 Leadership style preferences of the 3 generations (Warner. J & Sandberg. A, 2010) 4. 0 Recommendation A key to bridging the generation gap is the ability of leaders to create a supportive work environment for an increasingly diverse population of worker. Leaders need to understand that everyone has something good to offer and they may bring something better to the table if they are given a chance.
That is why if the leaders learn to appreciate those differences by focusing on positive attributes, they are likely to manage those differences and create a positive work environment. A useful leadership tools capable stimulating this situation might be Appreciation Inquiry. It offers a new way of dealing with organization development and human resource management by nurturing positive employee centered dialogue over deficit based thinking and problem solving processes. It benefits an organization by bridging the generation gap and facilitating the organizational goal and human needs within the organization.
Application of the principles of positive inquiry may lower the tensions caused by the divergent generational interests that can result in political infighting, formation of power alliances and increased turnover. Studies suggest that increasing contact and building up a close relationship between members of opposite groups can result in decreased tension between group members, increased the liking for those members and generalize to more positive attitudes and evaluations of the group as a whole (Desforges et al. , 1991).
Additionally, knowing that an in group member has a member of the other group as a friend reduces negative feelings towards that group and leads to more positive intergroup attitudes (Wright et al. , 1997). Creating cooperative interaction with members of other generations requires going out and interacting with people from different generations. Organizations need to find ways or create events that will enable employees to interact with each other. Generational integration in the workplace is likely to be mutually beneficial for both the organization and employees if it handled accordingly.
This is likely to make the workplace a fun environment for employees, and likely to result in increased productivity, better employee retention and attraction of better employees. Conclusions The biggest danger might be the impact that emotionally unintelligent managers are having on the younger generations as a result of their reactions and judgements. Generation X and Generation Y employees leave managers and not organizations and manager inability to deal with the frustration that comes with managing the younger generation result in lost productivity, conflict in the workplace and increased turnover.
Avoiding the trap of understanding generational differences cannot be overstated. It is critical for to know the new generation, connect with their preferred style and expectations. While entering into the situation, understanding expectations and what emotion is driving their behavior is far more productive as oppose to jumping to a judgment based on a stereotype and style differences. It is important to take time and built the trusting relationship where each generation brings ahead their potentials and works towards the common goal.
The leaders should recognize the different work characteristics between generational groups and apply leadership styles that will positively contribute to employee motivation. Changes to job design, the system of rewards, and organization structure might also result. Management decisions based on valid models of employee characteristics are much more likely achieve success than those based on wrong or inappropriate assumptions (Stone, 1998).
Literature indicated that Baby Boomers tend to be more loyal to employers and wiling to accept a ‘chain of command’ leadership style. Accordingly, a task-oriented leadership style is more acceptable to Baby boomers. On the other hand, X-ers seek their own power and voices and see authority as unreasonable toughness. They prefer their employer to treat them more as partner rather than a worker. Accordingly, Generation X and Generation Y prefer to be managed under a relationship-oriented leadership style.