Term Paper: Multigenerational Issues of Leadership

Pages: 30 (8003 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Health - Nursing  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] " (Knowledge Gap about Opportunities, 2002)

As you can see there are many different reasons for the nursing shortage. Chief among them is the fact that the baby boom generation is ageing and beginning to retire.

While Generations X and Y seem to be disinterested in the profession because the wages are low, incentives are poor and many in the profession are forced to work long hours. Even though there are other reasons why the shortage exists, generational issues are definitely at the forefront. The next few pages will explain the characteristics of the four generations. We will examine the various leadership style of each generation and find out how these styles and ideals have contributed to the nursing shortage.


Ask a Traditionalist about workplace feedback, and you're likely to hear, "Well, no news is good news. If I'm not yelling at you, you're probably doing fine." The top-down, boot-camp style of coaching makes sense to a generation of veterans who value authority and discipline. The strong, silent types who constitute a generation of Traditionalist leaders aren't long on praise -- they aren't even long on words -- but when they say something about your performance, they mean it. And you'd better listen up." (Lancaster & Stillman 2002)

The traditionalists' generation is composed of individuals that were born between 1900 and 1946. This is the post world war generation and many have retired from the workforce and individuals in the latter portion of the group are reaching retirement. Studies show that many traditionalists plan to return to the workforce part time even after they have retired.

As you can see from the quote above the leadership style of this generation relied heavily on the superiors within the organization.

Traditionalists tend to model a top down leadership style.

Workers did what they were told and there was very little communication between upper management and workers. This was the status quo for the traditionalist and the workplace environment.

The traditionalist generation is said to be composed of the most loyal workforce that the country has ever known. When this generation entered the workforce they took up residence in companies and planned to stay there until retirement. In some case the workers may have chosen to leave a particular company but they stayed in the same field. They did not tend to choose new career paths in the manner that newer generations do.

Nowadays traditionalists in the workplace may find it difficult to understand the mentality of the newer generations. Traditionalists also find themselves at odds with their own beliefs about loyalty. Today many corporations don't expect there employees to remain with the company for long periods of time.

In addition, most corporations do not value their employees the way that they once did. For instance, it is common for manufacturers to abandon the communities that have sustained them for generations in pursuit of markets where they can pay workers lower wages. This leaves very little room for the traditionalists that wants to stay with the company or on the same career path.

The traditionalist's loyalty to a certain company or field of endeavor made them a very efficient workforce. Individuals in this generation that chose to be nurses had a great impact on the healthcare field. The current nursing shortage is a combination of the retirement of traditionalist and baby boomers and the mentality of younger workers. Many of the younger workers choose to change their career paths even if they have been educated in a certain field. Generations X and Y are more likely to abandon a position if they feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled. This has created a great deficit of nurses in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. As we explained earlier the nursing field requires loyalty to remain efficient. Loyalty was a characteristic that traditionalists believed in but now that most have retired there is a serious shortage of qualified nurses.

Traditionalists also tend to have different values about work in general. Traditionalists believe that one should work whatever amount of hours it takes to finish the job. An article in the South Florida Business Journal explains,

Traditionalists tend to be practically minded, sometimes to an extreme. They portray a dedicated work ethic, which causes them to work consistently long hours, often to the point of self-sacrifice in family and outside relationships. Having grown through their work life under a hierarchy of leadership, they embrace a respectful view of authority in most life situations, are willing to go the extra mile to get things done and are philanthropically oriented toward causes." (Hilton 2000)

It is evident from our research that this was a hard working and loyal generation that took authority in the workplace seriously. The time in history that they grew up in forced them to address leadership in this manner and to work hard to accomplish the goals that the company set forth.

Though this generation was know for working long hours, this generation was not as obsessed with work and career goals as the generation that proceeded it -- the baby boomers.

Baby Boomers

According to a report published by The Urban Institute, the baby boom generation is composed of people born between 1946 and 1964. It is estimated that there are about 83 million baby boomers in America. Experts believe that the baby boom generation will continue to make up a significant part of the population until 2025. (Nightingale & Polous 1997)

The entrance of baby boomers into the workforce was significant to the American economy. When this generation entered the workforce, the amount of people in the labor force was greatly increased. In the years following their entrance into the workforce, the average age of individuals in the labor market increased markedly. (Nightingale & Polous 1997)

The institute reports that by 2005 that 37% of the workforce will be composed of people that are older than 45.

The report concedes that most of the workers will be between the ages of 50 and 60.. (Nightingale & Polous 1997)

The urban institute also explains that the baby boom generation has achieved greater economic and educational success than the traditionalist generation. For example, the report explains that the real median household income of baby boomers is 35 to 53% higher than the previous generation. In addition, 25 to 35% of the baby boom population has at least a bachelor's degree. (Nightingale & Polous 1997)

The increase in levels of education obtained by this generation has made them a force to be reckoned with in the labor market. Currently, a great deal of upper management in corporate America consists of members of the baby boom generation. This generation worked hard to achieve such prestige, even at the expense of their families.

The baby boom generation also has a different style of leadership within the workplace. Baby boomers often insist that management communicate with lower level workers. Currents magazine explains,

Compared with the silent stoicism of Traditionalists, Boomers are in touch with their feelings and in love with workplace communication. Boomers' original motivation for exchanging tons of information wasn't as pure as it sounds, however. Entering the workforce with 80 million cohorts contending for the same jobs can lead to a competitive obsession with knowing how you're doing. The fact that Traditionalists weren't exactly forthcoming made the need to know even more intense. So what did Boomers do? They instituted the once-a-year performance appraisal, with lots of written documentation. It forced Traditionalist role models, bosses, and mentors to sit down with Boomers on a regular basis and let them know where they stood. (Lancaster & Stillman 2002)

Boomers respect authority and leadership but they also aspect good communication between management and workers. This generation was the first to insist on a leadership style that was not just top-down. Boomers wanted to know if they were doing their jobs correctly and the steps that they could take to improve their performance. This new style did create some tension between the, "because I said so" generation and the "but why did you say so" generation. However, the generations worked together to overcome these differences for the betterment of their employers.

The leadership skills of the boomer generation have had some effect on the current nursing shortage. Boomers are highly motivated individuals that want to accelerate in their field of choice. I would suspect that the field of nursing does not look as attractive to boomers as other career fields. The baby boomers that did go into nursing as a career field now find themselves in a position of leaving the profession, because of their age, even though they understand that there is a critical shortage. The opportunities for advancement are present but they are not as appealing as in corporate America. For this reason I believe that many Boomers chose not to go into nursing as a career field and the part… [END OF PREVIEW]

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