Penn State Lesson 04 Generational Diversity in Workplace Discussion


Question Description

Class Discussion - Generational Diversity

Read Holtzman, D., et al. Generational Diversity in the Workplace. Understanding and Managing Diversity. Boston. Pearson. 2012. 0132847701. pp. 162-168 (this article is located in course E-Reserves).

BY SATURDAY at 12 pm (EST):

Answer the following two Questions (up to 300 words per question).

Read the following case scenario and answer questions 1:

Leigh is a Human Resource Director for Goldman Funds, an investment firm. Her job is to hire stockbrokers who have the ability to create wealth for Goldman clients and for the company. Leigh has been in this field for twenty years and spent many of those years as a stockbroker herself, so she knows how demanding the job can be. Most of the stockbrokers are young, unmarried, and devote 60 to 70 hours a week to their jobs. Most of them also spend several hours a week maintaining their physical fitness in order to deal with the stress of the job.

Leigh is interviewing applicants for a stockbroker position that just opened up. The most unusual applicant is john, unusual because he is 67 years old while the other applicants are in their 20s or 30s. John has a long career in the insurance industry, with many years as a salesman, a few years as ac claims adjuster, and the remaining years as an executive. John retired when he was 62 years old, and within a year, he was extremely bored with retirement activities. He enrolled in the local university and has just completed a master’s degree in finance. He earned grades that ranked him in the top 10 percent of his class.

John comes across as very personable in the interview. He tells Leigh, “ I’ve always loved to sell, I’ve always loved dealing with calculated risks, and it’s very important to me to get to know the clients I serve and to make a contribution through my work.” Leigh is impressed, but she’s concerned about how many years they can reasonably expect John to work. Leigh is also concerned about the high turnover rate that seems to come with the stockbroker position. One of their goals is to lower the employment turnover rates.

  1. If you were Leigh, the HR Resource Director, what would you do?
  2. One day you will be considered an "older" worker, or you may be considered an "older" worker now. What strategies can you implement in the workplace to avoid being stereotyped or discriminated against? 

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Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are permitted to furnish a reproduction if used for “private study, scholarship or research.” A second condition is that only single articles or chapters of a work totaling no more than 15% of the total number of pages be reproduced. Any use of a reproduction that exceeds these guidelines may be considered copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse any request for reproduction that is deemed a violation of current copyright guidelines. This material has been reproduced from the following source: Holtzman, D., et al. Generational Diversity in the Workplace. Understanding and Managing Diversity. Boston. Pearson. 2012. 0132847701. pp. 162-168. Date prepared: 09/16/2013 This material is presented for use solely by authorized faculty and students of the Pennsylvania State University. Further reproduction or distribution of this material is expressly prohibited. This material may be made available in alternative media upon request. Please contact Course Reserves Services at or by phone at (814) 863-0324. If you are experiencing problems viewing or printing this document, please visit for troubleshooting information. If further assistance is required, please send a description of the problem to that includes the course and instructor for which the material is on reserve, as well as the title of the material. GENERATIONAL DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE Diane M. Holtzman The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Evonne J. Kruger The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Charles D. Srock The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey GOALS • To gain a greater understanding of diversity among generations • To describe how groups of individuals in a generational cohort may be influenced by social, historical, and cultural forces of their generational timeframes • To analyze workplace cases and apply generational concepts in written and/or oral communications For the first time in history, four distinctively diverse generations are employed in our workforce: Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials and soon to be entering our workforce are the 23+ million individuals in Generation Z (Schroer, 2010). Depending on the years used to define the Generation Z cohort, soon we may have five diverse generations in our workforce (King, 2010). These cohorts frequently collide in today's workplace, creating environments characterized by individual and generational enmity where attitudes of"Us" versus "Them" and "every man and woman for himself and herself" surface (Zemke, Raines, & Filipczak, 2000, p. 5). The adversarial atmosphere impedes the energies, productivity, teamwork, and collaborative problem solving required by complex and competitive global markets. To foster organizational environments that are positive and productive, employers must be aware of the strengths and assets that each generation as a group brings to their organizations, and become skilled in dealing with individuals from each generation as subordinates, supervisors and customers. Each generation tends to have different attitudes about work ethics, career development, work/life balance, job expectations, communication styles, training, adaptation to and use of electronic technology, rewards and compensation (Center for Generational Studies, 2006). According to Lancaster and Stillman (2002), ... different generations of employees won't become more alike with age. They will carry their "generational personalities" with them throughout their lives. In fact, 162 Generational Diversity in the Workplace • • • • The oldest workers, those 44.2 million born between 1922 and 1943 are termed "veterans," the "swing generation;' or the "great generation" depending on the social observer. The term "greatest generation" was used by the journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation that grew up during the Great Depression and who fought in World War II (Brokaw, 2004). The baby boomer generation, approximately 77 million people, has been defined both as those born between 1943 and 1960 and those with births spanning the years 1946 through 1964. The 52.4 million generation Xers have been defined as being both born between 1965 and 1980, as well as between 1960 and 1980. The Generation Y cohort is termed the Millennials and Generation Nexters. At 77.6 million, they are now the largest generation. Some place their births between 1980 and 2000, others between 1981 and 1999 (Lancaster & Stillman, 2002; Zemke, Raines, & Filipczak, 2000). The generation that follows Gen Y is called "generation z;' the "digital generation," "generation 9/11 " and the "iGeneration"; and includes those individuals born after 1994 but before 2004 (Genera tion Z, 2010). Others state that Generation Z includes those born after 200 l (Worki ng with Generation Y and Z, 2010 ). Those born within a year or two of the start of a new generation are called "cuspers" because they "stand in the gap between the two sides ... [and] become naturals at mediating, translating, and mentoring" (Lancaster & Stillman, 2002, p. 39) . when hard times hit, the generations are likely to entrench themselves even more deeply into the attitudes and behaviors that have been ingrained in them (p. 8) . Demograph ers agree about the overall profiles of the distinct cohorts in the workforce, but disagree on the years of birth and cohort names. The workplace behaviors associated with this generation are still evolving but it is known that Generation Z individuals have grown up and been influenced by access to the newest communication tools such as the internet, cell phones, MP3 players, and IPods. This generation uses technology and is dependent upon it. Although Gen Zers are well connected, it is predicted that they will be weaker in terms of interpersonal skills and experience more unemployment and downsizing and may distrust corporations and have Jess loyalty to organizations than previous generations (Ge nera tion Z, 2010; Generation Y and Z, 2010). As Generation Z individuals begin to enter the workplace, there will be employees from the Swing Generation and the Baby Boom Generation who continue to be in the work force. In an article in Business Week, Coy (2005) found that starting in the mid-1980's, older Americans chose to keep working which can be attributed to improved physical and mental health, the desire to stay useful and the need for organizations to hold on to experience. Even executives are making career switches rather than retiring because th ey become bored with retirement and miss a sense of productivity and intellectual challenge (San Jose Business Journal, Report, 2007). Others remain in the workforce longer because they are not financially prepared for retirement (Moore, 2010) especially with the recession that began in 2008. Each generation has unique perspectives and values about work and the work environment. In traditional hierarchical organizations, generations tend to be more segregated as experienced 163 164 Section 3 • Understanding Primary Diversity individuals rise to higher positions with experience. In general, older em ployees tend to be in upper and upper-middle management, middle-aged employees in middle management and occasionally in upper management, and younger employees in lower to more central levels. However, as organizations flatten into more hodzontal structures, a "mixing" of generations occurs that profoundly influences organizational processes. As teamwork increases, intergenerational differences spark interpersonal conflict, creating issues surrounding collaborative problem solving, motivation, communication, training, and supervision. Thus, because of its impact on organization effectiveness, generational diversity must be added to traditional discussions of diversity in the workplace. The nomenclature and the time frames for the cohorts that follow are those deftned by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines, and Bob Filipczak (2000) and Raines (2002). GENERATIONS IN THE WORKPLACE The Profile for Veterans: Born between 1922 and 1943 The core values of Veterans include dedication , discipline, sacrifice, hard work, duty before pleasure, delayed rewards, conformity, consistency and uniformity, a sense of history, and an orientation toward the past; respect for authority, adherence to the rules , preference for hierarchy; patience; conservative spending, and a deep sense of personal organizational and national honor. Veterans were influenced by world events that included the 1929 stock market crash, Dust Bowl, and Great Depression in the 1930s; Franklin Roosevelt's presidency-particularly his optimism and the New Deal which brought Social Security and other social programs; the rise of Hitler and fall of Europe; Pearl Harbor and the United States at war; victories in Europe and Japan; and the Korean War. Assets of having Veterans in the workplace include their stability, orientation to detail, thoroughness, loyalty, and consistent hard work. Their liabilities include their difficulty coping with ambiguity and change, reluctance to buck the system, discomfort with conflict and reticence to disagree with those in positions of authority. Messages that motivate Veterans include, "Your experience is respected here; it's valuable to the rest of us to hear what has, and hasn't, worked in the past." When communicating with Veterans, employers should use inclusive language, written or face-to-face communication, and more formal language. in tlreir leadership style, Veterans are directive, use command-and-control leadership, and use executive decision-making. They want to take charge, delegate and make the bulk of the decisions themselves (Aldisert, 2002, p. 25; Zemke, Raines, and Filipczak, 200, pp. 29-32) . The Profile for Baby Boomers: Born between 1943 and 1960 Tire core values of Baby Boomers include optimism, team orientation, personal gratification, health and wellness, personal growth, staying young, hard work, and involvement. Boomers were influenced by the McCarthy hearings in 1954; victories over polio and tubercu losis; the struggle for Civil Rights from Rosa Parks, through school integration; Martin Luther King, Jr.; the involvement of students in voter registration, bomb shelters, and nuclear power; easily accessible birth control; Jolm F. Kennedy's presidency, including the establishment of the Peace Corps; the Cuban missile crisis; astronauts in space; the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert · ._ ~ 1- - _ ... Generational Diversity in the Workplace and their team spirit. Liabilities include frequent lack of budget orientation, discomfort with conflict to the point of conflict avoidance, reluctance to disagree with peers for fear of harming working relationships, comfort with process frequently overshadowing the need for goal attainment, being overly sensitive to feedback, being judgmental of those who see things differently, and self-centeredness. Messages that motivate Boomers include, "You're valued here," "We need you;' "I approve of you ;' and "Your contributions are unique and important." When communicating with Boomers employers should use an open, direct style; answer questions thoroughly; avoid controlling, manipulative language; use face-to-face or electronic communication; and convey flexibility. lt1 their leadership style, Boomers are collegial and consensual, but sometimes authoritarian. They are passionate and concerned about participation, spirit, humanity in the workplace, and creating a fair and level playing field for all. Because Boomers grew up with conservative parents and worked in their early careers for command-and-control supervisors, they often slip into that style when collegiality fails. Many Boomer managers lack sophisticated communication, motivation, supervision, and delegation skills (Aldisert, 20023, pp. 25-26; Zemke, Raines, Filipezak, 2000, pp. 63--91) . The Profile for the Gen Xers: Born between 1960 and 1980 The core values of the Get1 Xers include appreciation of diversity, ability to think globally, the balance of work and home, technoliteracy, espousing the idea that work should be fun, having a casual approach to authority, self-reliance and independence, and pragmatism. The Get1 Xers were influenced by the following events: the struggle for women's liberation and gay rights, the Watergate scandal, the energy crisis, personal computers, the Three Mile Island meltdown, disenchantment with nuclear power, successive recessions accompanied by massive layoffs, the Iran hostages episode, erosion of America's world dominance and respect, the Challenger disaster, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, AIDS, Operation Desert Storm, and the fall of communism. Assets of having Xers in the workplace include that they are adaptable, technoliterate, independent, not intimidated by authority, voracious learners, financially savvy, multitask oriented, experienced team members, and creative. Liabilities include that they are impatient, have poor people skills, are cynical, have low expectations about job security, are less willing to make personal sacrifices at work, and resist being micromanaged. Messages that motive Gen Xers include, "Do it your way;' "We've got the newest hardware and software;' and "There are not a lot of rules around here." When communicating with Gen Xers, employers should use electronic communication as the primary tool, write in short sound bytes, present facts, ask for feedback, share information immediately, use an informal style, and listen. In their leadership styles, Xers are uncomfortable with bureaucratic rules and procedures and traditional chain-of-command systems. They know that sophisticated and demanding customers expect their needs to be met immediately. The Gen X leader is skilled at supporting and developing a responsive, competent team that can change direction, or projects, quickly. They are egalitarian and not hierarchical in their thinking. In addition, they are adept at accessing information electronically (Aldisert, 2002, p. 26; Zemke, Raines, & Filipczak, 2000, pp. 92-126). The Profile for the Millennials: Born between 1980 and 2000 The core values for the Millennials include a sense of civic duty, confidence, optimism, achievement, sociability, morality, collaboration, open-minded, street smarts, an appreciation of diversity, respect for community and authority, okay at staying connected to others and the world through communication technology. 165 166 Section 3 • Understanding Primary Diversity The Millennials' sphere of seminal events and trends includes violence such as the terrorism of September 11th, the shootings at Columbine, and the Oklahoma City bombing; the increased use of technology; busy lives; the President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal; and years of service learning throughout elementary and secondary school. Assets of having Millennials in the workplace include their optimism, tenacity, heroic spirit, multitasking capabilities, technological know-how, collaborative skills, and their being goal oriented. Liabilities include their need for supervision, mentoring, and structure, inexperience in handing difficult interpersonal issues, need for constant feedback and praise, distaste for menial work, lack of skills for dealing with difficult people, impatience, and overconfidence. Messages that motivate Millennials include, "You'll be working with other bright creative people;' "You and your colleagues can help turn this company around," "Your boss is in his (or her) sixties;' "Your schedule will be flexible." \Vhen communicating with Millennials, employers should use descriptive language and action verbs, not talk down, show respect, use electronic and visual communication to motivate, promote constant feedback, use humor, and be encouraging. In their leadership style, Millennials combine the teamwork ethic of the Boomers with the can-do attitude of the Veterans and the technological savvy of the Xers. Resiliency is one of their strongest traits. They are very comfortable dealing with Boomers. Their learning preferences include teamwork, technology, structure, entertainment and excitement, and experiential activities. (Aldisert, 2002, pp. 27-29; Zemke, Raines, & Filipczak, 2000, pp. 127-150); Raines, 2002; Zust (nd) ). APPLYING GENERATIONAL DIVERSITY KNOWLEDGE TO THE WORKPLACE The case that follows presents a situation in which there are generational differences in a work setting. Read the case and answer the discussion questions at the end of it. Keep in mind that general cohort differences are tendencies of a group and not all people in a cohort will behave in the same manner. MANAGING DIVERSE GENERATIONS IN A RETAIL SEniNG Julia just graduated from Valley Community College with her associate degree in Business Administration. She is anxious to start her new position as an entry-level manager of the Electronics Department at Everything's Here Inc., a retailer that offers customers clothing, pharmaceuticals, food, automotive, house wares, electronics, small appliances, toys, etc. Julia, who is 34, has worked for the retail giant as a sales associate and then assistant manager in the clothing department over the last 5 years while attending college part-time and raising her two young children. During each of the past 4 years she has received a store customer service award. She is techno-literate and can multitask. \\Then Julia heard of a job opening for an entrylevel manager in the Electronics Department of Everything's Here Inc., she applied and received the position-she had the associate's degree, assistant manager experience at the store, and excellent customer service skills. The Electronics Department has a range of products including CDs, mobile phones, laptop computers, video games, MP3 players and flat-screen TVs. The department's 3 full-time sales associates, Ethel, Larry, and Rick and six part-time sales associates will report to Julia. The sales associates are responsible for aiding customers in purchase decisions, using the cash register for Generational Diversity in the Workplace sales, and taking inventory. Julia relies on the full-time associates to help her meet the sales goals for the department. At Everything's Here Inc. there are no sales commissions for the employees. Upon taking the position, Harold Lee, the store manager, told Julia that she needs to increase the department's sales and improve her employees' customer service skills. He said that he has received many complaints about the lack of attention given to customers in Electronics. Julia is expected to "turn the sales figures and the customer comments-positive" within the next six months. Ethel, age 70, has worked at Everything's Here Inc. for 20 years, with 18 of those years in sales in the fabric and crafts department-a department that was closed at Everything's Here Inc. due to lack of revenue. Over the last two years, Ethel has been transferred &om department to department. She has been in the Electronics Department now for one year and limits her work to assisting customers with CD and video selections.' Many times Ethel is the only sales person on the floor and when asked a question about the other technological equipment in the department, she tells the customers to "come back when the younger people are working-they understand this stuffi" Ethel is pleasant with customers and hard working. She told the upper managers at Everything's Here Inc. that she wants to work for a few more years because she receives heal'th benefits that cover the secondary insurance under Medicare for herself and her hu ...
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Generational Diversity



According to the text, veterans bring many sacrifices to the line of work in which they are
given (Holtzman & Kruger & Srock, 2013). The values in which veterans are reliant upon are
those of dedication, discipline, hard work, and orientation. Conformity, consistency, and
uniformity are also characteristics displayed by veterans in the workforce. Veterans have been
influenced by world events such as the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression, and the
New Deal. They have much knowledge and skills possessed during their younger years, that
those skills become greater benefits for the company in which they become employed. Having
veterans employed in one’s organizatio...

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