How Gen X and Millennials behave at Work

Generational groups have different norms and behaviors that impact the workplace — positively and negatively. Each generation believes that its work ethic is “better and/or stronger” than that of subsequent generations. Each also believes that theirs is sufficient and appropriate.

In 1987 the world was introduced to the term millennial, named for the high school class that would graduate in 2000. Commonly portrayed as idealistic and overzealous, the story we often heard over the years was that millennials were more likely to be talking about their passions than doing their day jobs. For the youngest members of our workforce, the things that typically mattered most at work were happiness and fulfillment.

There actually four generations represented in today’s workplace: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, who have taken over many senior leadership roles, Millennials, whose younger members will be the next generation of managers, and Gen Z, who is just entering.

Having said that, GenX and Millennial are the two biggest generations in the workplace right now. It is very important to understand how these two work at workplace. For your reference, Gen X are those born between 1965 and 1980, and Millennials are those born between 1981 and 2000s.

Before we begin, let us understand that, when Generation X was stepping into the professional world, the world was entering an era of economic growth at a snail’s pace. There were not many job openings, and an increase in divorced parents meant sharing responsibility at an early age

On the other hand, the Millennials were born into an epoch of rapid technological advancement where internet and communication played a vital role in the society.

Now, due to the said fact, the way of working has a huge difference in both these generations. Let us understand each one by one;

We would first understand how both the generations balance their work life. Both the generations do not have much differences, except as to how they want their work life to be balanced. Generation X, for instance, ask their employers to comply with strict 9 to 5 office hours, and for them, working extra hours is highly unacceptable. In some cases they may actually even leave the work if pushed constantly extra. Whereas, for Millennials, the concept of work-life balance means telecommuting, flexible work hours and relaxation opportunities on the office premises. They don’t mind spending extra hours at office as well.

Secondly, the working style — For a Gen Xer, staying at office and working is a commitment towards work. On the other hand, for Millennials 2 hours of Work from home can mean a full day;s of work commitment.

The concept of hierarchy is also pretty contrasting for the two workforces. Xers believe in proper step-by-step power structure where a boss is a symbol of authority. Millennials, on the other hand, believe in “flat hierarchy” where the executives, managers and directors are simply each other’s colleagues. Also, Millennials tend to take the boss as a mentor and expect acknowledgement and regular feedback.

Generation X thinks that the corner office and higher posts come from years of hard work, experience and expertise in the field. In their views the path to promotion is long, hard and inevitable. Therefore, when Xers get into managerial positions, they demand deference, with a concept that access to authority is limited and must be earned.

For Millennials, the lack of experience is not much of a bother if you are good at your work. They can climb up the ladder by just using their wits in a very short time!

The factors that motivate the two generational cohorts also vary on contrasting levels. Generation X, for instance, is often driven by authority, autonomy and job security. Their loyalty towards work and the boss they work for also acts as a stimulus.

Where Xers’ concept of professional achievement is the corner office with heavy oak door, Millennials find bean-bag, laptop and unlimited WiFi as one of their main motivational factors. Millennials want to find purpose in their toil and their career along with learning opportunities from their employer.

Here we should mention that financial gains like salary, perks and benefits are one of the foremost motivational factors that drive both generations towards a career path.

The above is just to give you a glimpse on how the difference in thoughts or work may arise, but end objective is same. Both the generations can learn something from each other. We are confident, that a balance between both these generations in any organization, will make the company prosper.

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