Generational Case Study

When researching my group project topic on age demographics in the workplace, I thought I’d blog about the generational differences I experience in my own workplace. I’m particularly interested in younger managers working with older generations like the Baby Boomers. I know I’ve mentioned my workplace before in other posts, but just to recap – I work as an academic advisor in VCU’s University College (UC) department. The UC advises all first year students to help them transition into college and attain academic success. Currently, there are 30 full time advisors who work with every type of major. Our Executive Director is a Gen-Xer. Not including my boss, our advising team is made up of 13 Gen Y (including me), 12 Gen X, and 6 Baby Boomers. What does this tell you? I’m use to working with people in my own generation and haven’t personally come across any generational conflicts. The age demographics in my own workplace also supports the current research findings that most of our current workforce is made up of Gen Xers (McDonald and Hite, 2008, pg. 87).

Most of the Baby Boomers I work with are extremely up to speed with technology. One of our Baby Boomer advisors is a School of the Arts advisor who does his own graphic design work (which means he’s probably better at computers than I am!…actually I know he’s better šŸ™‚ But really, I don’t think we need to immediately jump to technology skills when it comes to the Baby boomer generation. I’ve done some research on the Baby boomer generation and they have so much to offer the work place. One of the committees I am a part of is currently revising a textbook. The committee chair is a Baby Boomer who is extremely structured, task orientated, and focused. He’s a great note-taker, so when a bunch of us “Gen-Yers” go off on idea tangents and big picture thinking, he keeps track of it all. Bottom line is that every generation adds value. It’s up to leadership to leverage that value in an organization.

I read another case study during my research that talked about the Titanium rule (very much like the “Golden Rule” we think of) that says most people want to be treated with respect, and so we believe we’re doing the right thing by treating others with respect, but the titanium rule means understanding each generation’s ideas about what respect looks and sounds like (Raines, 2013). In my workplace, we are made of of counselors who do a great job at respecting others by valuing each other’s opinions and making sure to listen to everyone (sometimes to a fault when it comes to time constraints); therefore, I think each colleague understands the level of respect necessary to connect to one another and get things done.

Areas that I noticed could be improved upon is gathering more information on our stakeholders (i.e.Ā our students) and gathering more data (both quantitative and qualitative) aboutĀ their demographic. As advisors helping students learn, we want to meet the student where they areĀ developmentally. Yet, I feel there is a lack of active research on the Linkster generation (aka the FacebookĀ generation) in my workplace. The LinksterĀ generation is defined as those individuals born after 1995Ā (Johnson,Ā 2010, pg. 7). Since I’m in the middle of editing a textbook geared toward that generation, I’m curious about how they would read (or not read) certain sections that we, as advisors, feel are very important. More information gathering about that demographic could help us enhanceĀ our programs, textbooks, and learning systems.

I can’t say enough how this class and even this blog have helped me focus on areas to address in my own workplace – I think I’m on to another research project idea!

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5 thoughts on “Generational Case Study

  1. Hi Mary, it is such a pleasure to read your post because you are so passionate and insightful about the topic. I find the example of how the older employee takes notes in meetings very interesting because it is always the opposite in China. In my culture, age is associated with status and knowledge. Therefore, the elders’ opinions are usually more valued that the young people, so that they should be the idea contributor while the younger ones should be note-takers. I guess, in this sense, the generational issues in work place are also cultural issues.

      • That’s so interesting, Annie! I love when you mention examples from China because I like to hear about the cultural differences. I’m sure there are some corporate organizations in America where it’s the younger employees’ job to take notes and not talk. I think my workplace is unique in that sense (more multipliers maybe ? :)). I do feel lucky to work in a place where everyone’s opinion is valued and heard.

  2. “Bottom line is that every generation adds value. Itā€™s up to leadership to leverage that value in an organization.”

    I loved this post Mary! I know we are both really into this topic at the moment due to our project, but I’ve always been a fan of trying to see others perspectives and trying (key word trying:) to consider them. I think that what you say here is so important with an HRD lens too, because so often we focus too much on what someone can’t do, yet we forget what they contribute that others may not! All the technology in the world can’t replace some of the tacit knowledge that lives in the wise minds of some, and any organization that expects to survive should find a balance between the tacit, the wise and the new.

  3. Great post, Mary! As Holly pointed out already, I love your line “that every generation adds value.” This is so true. I work with several Traditionalist and while they may not completely be interested in learning new things since they are close to retirement, they love to develop others. I find this to be a great way to motivate this generation while growing our talent among younger groups. A few years ago we surveyed my company to see if there were any generational differences. It was amazing to discover that most of the differences actually occured due to other factors, such as office location and position held. For example, we expected to see more comfort with technology in the younger generations. In fact, several Baby Boomers are more technology savy than some in Gen Y. While I think we must take all employees into individual consideration to truly understand what motivates them, I think it’s great that there is research available so we have a general idea. This will really help you when your editing the textbook. I think that’s a great idea!

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