We’ve spent a bit of time recently discussing the workforce’s youngest generation and what makes it tick. Strange, though, that most of these generational discussions focus on what’s different about the youngsters. What about the rest of us? Is it possible that we’re as much to blame for these generational battles as our youngest colleagues?
The answer, in a word, is, “Absolutely.”
Let’s spend the next few days examining the characteristics of each of the workforce’s generations and how they relate to each other. Helping us out will be Cam Marston, a consultant who specializes in multigenerational communications and marketing. Marston spoke to a group of state CPA society representatives recently in Scottsdale, Ariz., offering detailed insight into each generation and what motivates them.
First up: the “matures.”
Born before 1945, the matures make up about 5 percent of the American workforce. According to Marston, these are the matures’ defining characteristics. Of course, not every mature possesses each of these characteristics, but the generation as a whole is defined by:
- Duty, honor and country.
- Dedication and sacrifice.
- Conformity, blending and unity — a “we first” attitude.
- A belief that they will progress from “hard, hard times to prosperity.”
- National pride.
- An emphasis on doing a good job.
- The notion that “age equals seniority.”
“The senior generation believes the younger generations will never have to work as hard as they did to become successful,” Marston said. “It typically begins with the words, ‘When I was your age …'”
The result, says Marston, is that younger workers are left asking themselves a key question: “What happens if I define success differently than the people that I work for?” Sounds like the makings of workforce conflict …
Next, we’ll take a closer look at the most influential generation in the workforce today: the baby boomers.