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Bridging Generation GAPS

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Understanding demographic, and other, data can expand our solution sets and approaches to diverse populations and help us hire, retain, grow and manage our workforces. But those data can be a two-edged sword. Too often we hear our colleagues say things like, “Those GenXers just want everything handed to them. They don't want to pay their dues or work hard,” and “Boomers are just workaholics. Get a life!”

At a recent VWEA/NVRAC workshop on progressive management practices in Virginia, I sat next to a self-described GenXer. He was really steamed about hearing, over and over, his generation being characterized as a bunch of slackers who want everything “given to them.” Is this the message we want young people to hear?

Below, we take a closer, and more empirical, look at the so-called Generation Gaps. What do the data say? What do they not say? And what can we do about it? As engineers, scientists and managers, we owe it to our utilities and professions to be healthy skeptics, consumers, and users, of this information. And it is useful. But there's a way to use this information to actually make us better managers and leaders of an increasingly-diverse workforce, without resorting to stereotypes and labels that leave people thinking that we aren't really seeing each other as individuals. In this paper and our presentation, we will provide some insights to the questions of “what do the data say?” and “what does it mean?” and, perhaps most importantly, “how can it help us as managers and leaders?”

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-01-01

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