Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Generational Diversity in the Workplace

One of my students, Caitlyn May, just completed her senior Honors thesis here at Bryant University on the topic of generational diversity in the workforce.  She examined how people perceive others from their own generation, as well as how they perceive individuals from other generations.  Because I have just finished reading her work, I was struck by this article from the Kellogg School about Professor Nicholas Pearce's research on generational diversity in organizations.  Here's an excerpt from the excellent article published on the Kellogg Insights website:

To make diversity work, Pearce says, leaders need to be more aware of the “pain points” that are likely to cause generational tension. “Many times, the tension is blamed on differences in maturity, when in actuality, generational differences are often the source of the conflict,” he says.... Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, for example, tend to give respect deferentially based on one’s position in the hierarchy, while Generation Xers and Millennials are more likely to give respect to those who are seen as deserving—regardless of where they fit in the organization’s hierarchy... One significant cause of intergenerational tension has to do with conflicting attitudes towards loyalty. Older generations tend to be more loyal to institutions—they still believe in what Pearce calls the “implicit social contract,” an understanding that those who pledge their commitment to one company will eventually reap the long-term benefits. Millennials, by contrast, are loyal to individuals. “Many of them saw their parents or grandparents play by those rules and get severed or fired just shy of the retirement party, the gold watch, and the pension that had been promised” he says, which caused a generation-wide shift from institutional loyalty to interpersonal loyalty. 

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