Eight Questions Chapter 1 – One Size Does Not Fit All (Continued)

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XX, Number 50 (Issue 1002) December 12, 2022

Eight Questions Chapter 1 – One Size Does Not Fit All (Continued)

Depending upon the source you choose to believe, there are at least four and possibly as many as nine generational cohorts represented in the workforce today. It seems most social scientists – at least those that I researched – say there are five generations at work including:

The Traditionalists – born before 1946
The Baby Boomers – born between 1946 – 1964 Generation X – born between 1965 -1980
Gen Y (The Millennials) – born between 1981 – 2000 Gen Z – born between 2001 – 2020

Those who suggest there are nine distinct generations at work describe groups that fall on or around the cusp of the various boundaries (by +/- five years give or take). They hold that those born within a few years of the generational divides frequently manifest characteristics of two generations.

Recognizing that those in the Traditionalist generation are now in their late seventies, that demographic is the smallest segment of our current workforce. In contrast, the largest segment is Gen Y at thirty-five percent. The Baby Boomers make up roughly twenty-five percent of the labor force but since 10,000 Boomers are reaching retirement age on a daily basis, their representation in the workforce is shrinking quickly. Gen X accounts for about one-third of the workforce while the newest set of workers (those twenty-one and under) are just five percent of our country’s labor pool though they are growing in both representation and influence.

While the boundaries between generations are arguably arbitrary, there is less disagreement about the forces and events that came together to shape the thoughts and behaviors of each. Yes, the age-old debate over the impact of heredity verses environment still rages. Yet one need look no further than the clear

differences among siblings to conclude that something other than genetics is at work.

Thus, for those hoping to effectively lead a multi-generational workforce with its mix of tendencies, experiences, preferences, and ideologies, there is little choice but to study and understand the forces that have shaped each group.

Starting with the Boomers, they grew up during the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Their values are bound up in words like loyalty, duty, industriousness, and sacrifice. To their way of thinking achievement comes only after paying one’s dues.

Moving forward to the Gen Xers, they came of age in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. They were the first latch-key generation due to the rise in two earner households and single-parent families. Consequently, they are flexible, self- sufficient, distrusting of institutions. They believe in diversity. It is their generation that gave rise to the term “work-life balance.”

The Millennials were products of the eighties, nineties, and early 2000s. Impatient to succeed, they nonetheless put off the traditional trappings of adulthood like marriage, family, and homeownership. Ambitious, adaptable, and yearning for feedback and approval, they have forced organizations to rethink the traditional relationship between employer and employee. They have an altruistic streak not seen since the Greatest Generation. They are also our technology natives.

Gen Z has been shaped by the events of the past two decades. They are described by some as “digital device addicts.” Their thinking is global in nature because their connections are not constrained by geography. Thus far, they are a bit unfocused. At the same time, they are highly creative. As a group they value individuality, independence, flexibility, and fairness. They see themselves as capable multi- taskers.

As for the events that have impacted each generation’s formative years, here is a list of some of the key events and innovations by decade.

The 50s: the Korean War, Color TV, the Polio Vaccine, Brown v. Board of Education, Rosa Parks, dawn of both the Space Race and Rock-and-Roll, the Interstate Highway system is authorized.

The 60s: the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Women’s Lib, the assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, Woodstock, the Apollo Missions with the successful Moon landing as well as the creative problem solving that prevented a disaster for Apollo 13.

The 70s: the Vietnam War, the Jonestown massacre, the Munich Olympic Village terrorist attack, the taking of American hostages in Iran, the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, ATMs, Nixon goes to China, Disco, Star Wars, Roe v. Wade, the Arab Oil Embargo and resulting long lines at gas stations, fiber optics, rise of the PC, Watergate, Nixon resigns.

The 80s: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mobile phone, Mount St. Helens erupts, the Internet is born, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, AIDS, video games, CNN debuts, Post-It Notes, Laser surgery, 3-D Printer invented, Black Monday for the stock market, Challenger explodes.

The 90s: the Cold War ends, Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine High School shooting, end of Apartheid, Amazon is born, Google is born, Y2K

The 00s: GPS was made available to the public, the EURO debuts, the invasion of Iraq, the Smart Phone, 9/11, the Great Recession, Tesla Motors was founded, Barack Obama elected President, Facebook is founded, Hurricane Katrina, ISS opens.

The 10s: Fukushima Nuclear disaster, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Mars Rover lands on Mars, Marvel’s “The Avengers” debuts, Brexit, Ebola Virus outbreak, Trump elected President, #MeToo movement, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Las Vegas Strip shooting

The 20s: COVID!

The above list of events is only a smattering of the things that have served to shape the thinking and values of various generations who are either leading us or are in search of a leader. How we apply this knowledge to better effect is our next stop.

Soli Deo Gloria

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

Mobile: (210)260-0955
E-mail: keith@jkeithhughey.com
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com

Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2022 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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