According to Kupperschmidt (2000, p. 65), generational differences at the workplace are as a result of differences in goals, expectations and work values. Zemke, Raines and Filipczak, (2000, p.5) define a generation as a group of individuals who share several things, including year of birth, age, location, and significant life events.
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Cennamo and Gardner (2008, p.896) have provided examples of significant life events which include major political events or threats, socio-economic transitions, and emerging industry trends. There are four distinct generations, namely Baby boomers, Generation X, Y, and Z. However, in the UK, employees in most organisations belong to the Baby boomers generation, Generation X and Y.
Baby boomers are individuals born between 1945 and1960. These are the individuals who were born in post World War II era. Haynes (2011, p. 104) notes that Generation X consists of individuals born between 1961 and 1980, while Generation Y are the individuals who were born after 1980.
Individuals from both the Baby boomers generation and Generation X mainly occupy high and middle levels of management in organisations, respectively. These positions are based on the age and work experience of the employees from the above generations. On the other hand, Generation Y is made up of junior employees in many organisations.
According to Personnel Today (2005), most organisations in the UK mainly rely on project teams to oversee various projects and tasks in the organisation. Project teams are multigenerational in nature and as such, they bring together employees from different generations.
Generational Differences and Attitudes towards Teamwork in UK organisations
Teams are useful in tackling hard tasks at different organisations. Baby boomers have strong commitment towards work and are keen on meeting strict deadlines as outlined under different tasks. Therefore, Baby boomers working in multigenerational teams are strongly committed to completing the task at hand.
They tend to be highly inflexible towards altering deadlines. Additionally, Howe and Strauss (2000, p.40) indicate that Baby boomers view the workplace as fun and counterproductive towards the realisation of the team’s goals and objectives.
According to Hammill (2005), Baby boomers prefer working as a team. According to Lyons, (2004, p.13), Baby boomers prefer to work in teams because they are keen on learning new skills in order to enhance their positions in the team in particular and the organisation in general.
Furthermore, Murphy( 2010,p.10) states that Baby boomers exhibit a participatory leadership style and prefer increased consultation before reaching any team decisions. According to Twenge and Campbell (2008, p.866) , the baby boom in the UK started at least ten years after the baby boom in the United States. Therefore, in the UK, Baby Boomers occupy both the top and middle level management levels.
Lamm and Meeks (2007, p. 617) claim that Generation X employees place emphasis on work-life balance. Most employees from this generation, therefore, are able to balance between responsibilities both at the workplace and home. Individuals from this particular generation have poor people skills and also are considered cynical. Also, Generative X individuals are associated with authoritative decision making.
The above mode of decision making is characterised by decreased consultation between the team’s supervisor and members. In most UK organisations, Generation X employees occupy the middle level management. Therefore, Generation X employees are most likely to serve as team supervisors mainly based on experience in a particular field. However, due to the emerging trends in the industry, members from other generations may assume roles as team supervisors, including Generation Y employees.
Generation Y employees mainly serve as team members as they are junior employees in various organisations. Lamm and Meeks (2009, p.617) claim that Generational Y employees are more inclined towards achieving work-life balance. As such, they are more likely to engage in such activities such as pursuing further education.
This is aimed at enhancing their skills so that they can remain abreast with the emerging trends in the workplace. Similarly, Hill (2004, p. 34) claims that employees from this generation are characterised by increased use of technology which enhances their ability to multi-task.
Raines (2003) indicates that in a team setting, Generation Y employees are highly creative and thus are in a position to use existing knowledge to come up with solutions to various problems. Additionally, employees from this generation do not prefer to use formal communication channels while liaising with other team members on team matters.
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Instead, such employees prefer modern communication tools including social networking sites. However, Haynes (2008, p.288) argue that Generation Y employees require high levels of commitment which is a useful tool for enhancing their long term commitment to an organisation.
In the UK alone, more than 230,000 graduates join the workforce every year. Over 80 percent of the above graduates belong to Generation Y. Therefore, as employees from the above generation increase, managers and team supervisors should ensure that the needs of such employees are adequately addressed.
Striking a middle ground in management of multigenerational teams
A useful tool for addressing intergenerational conflict is developing an inclusive organisational culture so that the input of all individuals is appreciated. Team supervisors should take into account varied needs of all team members. Additionally, Baby Boomers who command respect in their organisation are instrumental in instituting the above culture.
The management should put in place mechanisms of settling team conflicts. This includes voting for contentious issues. Voting should take place after all members have given their input as regards a particular issue. Finally, D’Amato and Herzfeldt (2008, p.934) note that the concept of a learning organisation is most appropriate where employees learn from each other, thereby promoting individual development.
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