As a colleague, understanding generational differences is important to maintaining effective and satisfying relationships at work. Managers in particular must strive to appreciate these differences if they want to build high-performing teams, establish respect, and create harmony among their staff
Traditionalists (born 1925-1942). The oldest cohort of workers still in the workforce grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, events that taught them about hard work, responsibility, and sacrifice. This group understands rules, is patriotic and loyal, and dislikes waste. They have a strong work ethic and look to their leaders for direction and guidance. They are likely to remain with the same employer for many years, are the least comfortable with technology, and are the most resistant to change.
Boomers (born 1943-1960). Currently the largest cohort in the workforce, boomers were shaped by the equal rights movement, the Vietnam War, presidential assassinations, and the "peace and love" movement. Boomers are the original "workaholics" and "overachievers," often defining themselves by the work they do and their success. They are independent, critical thinkers who seek financial security, promotions, and a sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment from work. According to a survey conducted in 2008, boomers are the most productive of the generations.
Generation Xers (born 1961-1981). The Xers are the smallest cohort in the workforce. Xers were influenced by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the AIDS epidemic, and MTV. They are the latchkey generation -- the children who went home to empty houses after school because both parents were working. Many are children of divorce. They are considered independent, assertive, and innovative. This group is also well traveled and values individualism. Xers "work to live" rather than "live to work," and they tend to be less loyal to the organization and less tolerant of authority than previous generations. However, they are flexible and adaptable to change, and they embrace technology.
Millennials (born 1982-2000). The Millennials, a large and fast-growing cohort, grew up in the age of domestic and international terrorism, and the explosion in social networking and information technology. They tend to be protective and careful, yet also confident, expressive, optimistic, and -- according to a recent survey -- self-indulgent. They are the least religious, best-educated, and most racially diverse of recent generations. The millennials are strong networkers, sophisticated and street-smart. They like to work in teams but also crave instant gratification, feedback, and recognition. A disadvantage is their impatience: If they are unhappy, they will give up and move on to another job at another organization. With this group, maintains Clipper, "We need to engage them early, allow them flexibility, like allowing them to change units, so they don't get bored"
One of the most obvious and important differences in nurses from different generations is their communication styles and preferences.
• Traditionalists prefer face-to-face discussions and staff meetings, and are less likely to use email or texting for communication.
• Boomers prefer face-to-face group meetings, and telephone calls for 2-way dialogue. Their style of communication is more open and less formal than the previous generation.
• Xers prefer email and texting, with direct and to-the-point communication; they dislike prolonged discussions.
• Millennials prefer fragmented, short, and frequent communication via text or Twitter. They like to share their opinions electronically as well as in person.
Nurses from different generations frequently diverge in how they give or accept feedback, whether it is praise or criticism. According to Clipper, traditionalists like to hear feedback privately and tend to anticipate bad news. Boomers also prefer to receive criticism in private, one-on-one sessions, although praise can be given in front of peers. Both traditionalists and boomers will work hard to improve any deficiencies brought to their attention. Xers tend to take criticism more poorly and may overinterpret what is said. Millennials, although accustomed to receiving a lot of advice, also have difficulty accepting constructive criticism, but they happily accept praise in front of their peers.