Generations apart

Jan. 1, 2020
Each age group has a common theme that affects how they work. These management tips can help you understand while you keep your competitive edge.

Ever gotten upset because one of your youngest employees didn’t complete a task that you assumed would be easy? Do you think he or she is lazy and lacks initiative? With the age range that exists in the aftermarket, it is pertinent you understand generational differences, said Troy Campbell, senior consultant with the Center for Generational Studies. “I truly believe we cannot isolate one generation in a vacuum because they all interrelate,” he pointed out to a crowd of Parts Plus members at a presentation entitled, “From Ricky and Lucy to Beavis and Butthead,” at the group’s February convention in New Orleans.

He explained that every group — Maturers, Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials (also known as Generation Y) — are influenced by adversity, diversity, technology, complexity and economy experienced in their younger years. “Our core values are formed by the time we are 10 or 12 years old,” he added.

Maturers went through the Great Depression and WWII. Boomers saw years of economic expansion. Gen-eration Xers started to see corporate layoffs, and Millennials are growing up in a time of downsizing, globalization and war. All of these items impact how one looks at their job and how they handle specific tasks.

For Baby Boomers and Maturers (born prior to 1946), a job is what defines them — they build their whole life around what they do for a living. For the Generation X era (those born between 1965 and 1980), a job is more of a contract, not a calling. A Baby Boomer may think it seems absurd that a 28-year-old has already held three or four different jobs since graduating, but a Generation Xer didn’t see the same sense of loyalty as a Boomer or Maturer, explained Campbell. They’ve experienced or observed layoffs, consolidations, acquisitions, mergers and recessions, so they are much more skeptical in their employer expectations and more likely to move around.

They typically don’t settle down into one role until they begin having their own families in their early 30s. It’s not the wrong way of thinking, Campbell asserted, “It’s just different.”

Also, Boomers and Maturers may think that if no physical effort is involved in a task, then it means people aren’t working. But with the advent of technology and computerization, said Campbell, the Gen Xer has less patience and tolerance for meaningless tasks and will do whatever they can to make something more efficient, even if it means changing a system that has been in place for years.

Because Generation X grew up in a booming technology era, they are better at solving problems than older generations. A Generation Xer just needs to be told what their expectations are. They will come up with their own way of solving a problem, though it might be a tough adjustment for the Maturers and Baby Boomers since they don’t like too much change, said Campbell. “As long as what they are doing isn’t immoral, unethical, or illegal, then get out of their way.”

The newest generation, the Millennials, have been bombarded with messages since birth. Most can’t recall a time when e-mail, cell phones, pagers and the Internet didn’t exist. They are growing up in a time when values have been compromised, Campbell said, adding that they have seen everything from Columbine to O.J. Simpson’s trial, from President Clinton’s impeachment to September 11 and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are highly agitated since they feel deceived — things are never what they seem or what this generation’s told.

As this diverse generation enters the workforce, Campbell said employers may see a lack of basic skills, yet an extremely technology savvy group. Millennials need the opposite of what the Generation Xer needs when it comes to work-related functions, said Campbell. A Millennial works best if given a specific task or set of tasks to carry out instead of being told what outcome is needed. They need lots of guidance and attention.  

 So, the next time you think a younger or older co-worker does something that just doesn’t make sense, take a step back and remember that each generation is different in how they work and live. For more information on generational differences, log on to