Generational Gap in the Workplace Dissertation

Pages: 10 (3120 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Careers


Ultimately, reliability of studies may depend on the quality of the research as well as the population and individuals sampled and their locality as well as other factors of the study, and studies have to be longitudinal (and ongoing) as well as cross-sectional to indicate best results.

There are personal variables that also impact work ethic such as the level of one's education, one family situation, one's income level, and marital status, as well as the number and qualities of jobs that a person holds. People, for instance, who hold full-time jobs are found to be less work-dedicated than those with part-time jobs and similarly too with people who have lower incomes and are married (Tang & Tzeng, 1992). It may be that uncertainty of job impels a stronger work ethic.

Previous descriptions have also noted that some generations may be more process-than results-oriented in comparison to others. This may conceivably create gaps and conflicts in the workplace, and although results of studies seem to point to authenticity of this description, inadequate experimental research exists to draw conclusions.

Attitudes of respect and authority to employer and workplace

It has been said that Xers see job-hopping as a form of career advancement whilst Baby Boomers and Traditionals, certainly, value security and stability above all else as well as dedication to job and employer. This has been one of the contentions of the workplace and reasons for the Generational Gap (NOAAOD, 2006).

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The reason for Xers behavior is almost certainly linked to the chaotic and uncertain times that they grew up in seeing work as providing no security to their parents or themselves, and, because of other circumstances in their lifetimes, becoming cynical to authority figures (Karp et al., 2002). Nonetheless, many of these studies may be biased in that it was a graduate, rather than non-graduate population that was sampled.

TOPIC: Dissertation on Generational Gap in the Workplace Assignment

All the same, loyalty towards employer and workplace has been found to decline with Smola and Sutton (2002) finding younger employees to be more self-centered than workplace-oriented and more interested in money acquisition and power than in loyalty to their job. However, these assumptions may be contextually driven too, depending on personal and socio-economic factors of individuals amongst other variables. Employees may also evidence more loyalty to the company if the company's culture and values matches their own, and if they are accorded autonomy, respect, and quality work conditions (Deal, 2007).

As regards workplace environment and conflict, surveys do find sufficient existence of complaint between the various generations with griping of attrition of respect between older and younger generations and the reverse (O'Bannon, 2001). This may, however, be a phenomenon of the times in general, rather than inter-generational syndrome. Deal's (2007) study of intergenerational attitude toward authority did discover that 13% of the older generations ranked respect amongst the topmost 10 values, compared to 5% of Baby Boomers and 6% of Xers and Yers respectively, but this may have been attributed to personal or religious differences as well as to the skewed sample. Whilst supporting indications of characteristics of Traditionals, Deal's study conflicts with assumptions of characteristics of Baby Boomers who arguably respect a hierarchical approach to organization.

As regards attitude and respect shown by Xers and Yers to authority figures, popular literature indicates that little respect of titles exists and that both generations see beyond titles to the essence of the individual themselves (Deal, 2007). Little empirical evidence, however, exists on this point, and some may argue the reverse in connection with the adulation (frequently irrational) that is accorded to celebrity sports and media figures.

A further generational gap in the workplace may well be between the type and quality of respect that each generation seeks from the other. Whilst older workers want their opinions listened to because they represent the 'voice and wisdom of the ages', younger generations may more likely court empathy and active listening skills as well as attention to what they have to say. Older people too, may dislike the democratic display of respect shown to all regardless of status, age, and position, whilst younger individuals may perceive this as smug, bigoted, and authoritarian (Deal, 2007). These differences in expectations and behavior may create genuine conflicts and challenges in the workplace.

Learning style and desire for life balance

According to Deal (2007), the older and the younger generations have different learning styles. Traditionals and Boomers, to be more specific, prefer to learn hard skills through classroom instruction and soft skills on the job, whilst Xers and Yers prefer to learn both on the job. It may have been exposure to computer and Internet influence that affects the preferences of the younger generations. Similarly, whilst discussion groups are the format of choice for the older generations, the younger generations see them as least effective and more time-consuming. Again, one can readily see historical circumstances as prompting choice. Additionally, the younger generations tend to value feedback more than the older ones do, and the various generations seem to indicate different methods in learning and internalizing skills. Computer and Internet may have a great deal to say in the diversities between the characteristics on these points.

As regards desire for greater balance between life and work, most of the evidence that the younger generations seem to incline towards the latter in comparison to the older ones, is anecdotal. It may be that the younger generations resists the influence of work on their lives to a greater extent than the older generations do, but, this again may differ according to personality and context and needs further research.

Other differences in Workplace Generation Gap

Definitions of 'success' and 'leadership' vary too between the generations with apparently generational perspectives of the constructs hinging on the paradigms of their times. The gap seems to be most pronounced between the Traditionals and the younger generations with the Traditionals connecting success to workplace conduct, and the younger generations connecting it to computer skills. As regards leadership style, the two older generations prefer a leader with credibility, whilst the younger ones prefer empathy and active listening (Deal, 2007).

All generations want to be valued and appreciated as well as receive fair treatment. In the end, definite differences may exist more in popular literature than in real life. Further empirical research needs to be conducted to demonstrate whether this is or is not the case.

Conclusions and Discussion

Definite workplace differences seem to be indicated between the various generations. The older generations, for instance, seem to indicate more loyalty and dedication to work and workplace unlike the younger ones who seem to be more entrepreneurial and focused on money and prestige. Expectations of respect and characterization of respect also differs between the generations with the younger generations, arguably, being less intimidated by authoritative figures and seeking a more democratic style. The younger generations are also more apt to seek a more balanced lifestyle and place fewer prerogatives on work as well as to favor different learning styles.

On the other hand, many of these studies are biased with some occurring between students rather than actual workers and others biased by sample and context. Factors that need to be involved include the quality and number of jobs that the individual works in, his or her marital and lifestyle context, as well as socio-economic variables. Apparently, greater job insecurity may eradicate differences in generational style.

Longitudinal as well as cross-sectional studies need to be perpetrated for more reliable results, and studies, aside from being contradictory are also inadequately empirical. In short, differences, if they exist, may not be so much generational as attached to other variables and the Workplace Gap, if there is one, may be due to circumstances such as workplace environment, workplace culture, values, and personality of other employer amongst other elements.

Ultimately, definite differences may exist more in popular literature than in real life. Most individuals seem to share the following set of values: they want to contribute to society, earn money, be valued for their contributions, work in a congenial work environment, receive fair treatment and acknowledgment, possess prestige, engage in teamwork, and retain job security. Differences may be more individual than general based. On the other hand, the generational gap may exist. It needs further and solid research to prove that this is the point.


Anick Tolbize (2008) Generational differences in the workplace. Univ. Of Minn. Retrieved on12/19/2011 from

Bova, B. & Kroth, M. (2001). Workplace learning and generation X Journal of Workplace Learning, 13, 57 -- 65.

Crampton, S.M., & Hodge, J.W. (2006). The supervisor and generational differences. Proceedings of the Academy of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 11, 19 -- 22.

Deal, J.J. (2007). Retiring the generation gap: How employees young and old can find common ground. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Jenkins, J. (2007). Leading the four generations at work. Retrieved 12/19/2011, from

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