Category Archives: Generations

Generational Quick Tip: Defining Diversity in the Workplace

Each generation in the workforce has different ideas about what diversity means to them. These definitions are influenced by: 1) the context in which each individual person was raised and 2) their experience with the field of diversity as it has developed overtime in the workplace. For older generations working in the 1960s -1970s, such as traditionalists and baby-boomers, diversity in the workplace began predominantly with affirmative action and equal opportunity programs that dealt with discrimination complaints and lawsuits after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As Generation X was entering the workforce in the 1980s and 1990s, equal opportunity initiatives were expanded into diversity departments.  This focus on diversity was driven by the increasing number of number of African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, Women, and Asians in the workforce and employer’s desire to create a workforce that reflected the changes the demographics of the US.  Today, Generation Y is being introduced to a highly diverse and global workforce that focuses on increasing diversity, as well as leveraging diversity to create inclusive work environments.

Action Step:
Be very clear about how you define diversity at your company because each generation may have a different experience of what diversity in the workplace means to them.

Significant People of a Generation: Muhammad Ali

During the height of his career through the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali was (and remains) an iconic figure and sports legend.  For the Baby-Boomers coming of age at this time, Muhammad Ali was both a hero and a controversial figure, whose actions and fearless bravado voiced the opinions of many of their generation.

Ali was born to the name Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, KY.  At the age of 12, he started boxing after thieves stole his bicycle and he wanted to learn the skills to “whoop” them.  At only 18 years old, he won the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. In his 1975 biography, Ali claims that shortly after receiving the medal, he threw it into the Ohio River after he was refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant.  In 1964, Clay fought Sonny Liston to earn the title of Heavyweight Champion, as the youngest boxer to claim the title. In the same year, Clay converted to Nation of Islam, a religious and political movement aimed to improve the condition of African Americans, and was renamed Muhammad Ali.  For many in the mainstream community, the change made Ali a controversial figure, as Nation of Islam was associated with Malcolm X and the Black Power movements and was often looked at with suspicion and hostility. Ali was very vocal about his beliefs, at times promoting separatist ideas that were considered to be radical.

In 1966, Ali was informed that he was eligible to be drafted for the Vietnam War. Famously, Ali declared that he would refuse to serve, saying he was a conscientious objector because it was against his religion to fight a war that was not in the name of Allah. Muhammad Ali faced criticism from many for being unpatriotic and was charged with draft eviction. However, he also had support from many as a figure for the peace movement that had been growing in the US since 1964. While on trial for draft eviction, Ali famously explained his reason for opposing the war: “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” It was a reason that resonated with many Baby-Boomers who felt that the war was an abuse of government authority. He was stripped of his heavyweight title and exiled from the boxing community for 5 years. During this time, he spoke at peace rallies at colleges and schools in favor of ending the Vietnam War.

With his return to boxing in 1970, Muhammad Ali came back with increased swagger and boasting to reclaim his title. In 1974, Ali fought George Foreman in the epic  “Rumble in the Jungle Fight” where Ali, projected as the underdog, reclaimed the heavyweight title. He used his “Rope-a-Dope” technique to tire Foreman out before finishing him with a heavy rain of blows. This fight was followed by the famous 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” fight against Joe Frazier, where Ali, after 14 grueling rounds of fighting, was again victorious. This time the fight was a close call and both fighters were in very poor shape by the end of the fight. The fight has been marked as one of the Top 5 Sporting Events of the 20th Century and was viewed by 700 million people worldwide.

During the height of his career, Muhammad Ali was also prevalent in the mainstream media. He appeared in commercials and did many interviews, offering his opinions loudly and without shame, claiming he was “the greatest.” Although he was a controversial figure, many Baby-Boomers of very different backgrounds could agree that he was a hero and a champion.  He was supported and revered by the peace movement; by African-Americans who aligned with his beliefs or those who were proud of his example; by the white population that shared his beliefs or valued him greatly as a sports hero and public personality. Many of his ideas challenged the ideas of the mainstream, which resonated with many Baby-Boomers who were seeking to overturn and progress government institutions and laws.

Muhammad Ali officially retired from boxing in 1981. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He would go on to open the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. He has continued to engage in many philanthropic pursuits, such as in 1991 when he met with Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of American hostages and his 2001 peace talks in Afghanistan. In 1996 Ali famously lit the giant Olympic torch in Atlanta to kick off the start of the Summer Olympic Games.  He currently resides with his family in Arizona.

Generational Quick Tip: Work Environment

Each generation brings a unique cultural background to the workplace that impacts the type of work environment they prefer. These preferences may be impacted by their views on authority, informality/formality, leadership, etc. The Baby-Boomers desire a “flat” organizational hierarchy where a democratic approach to feedback and opportunity is desired, which is different from their Traditionalist predecessors, who preferred hierarchical organizations and chain-of-command. Baby-Boomers also want to create a warm and friendly atmosphere, though do not confuse the  Boomers friendliness with informality, as they stick to more traditional views on formality in communication and dress. Both Gen X and Gen Y agree that the workplace should be a positive, fun, and informal environment. Gen X greatly values efficient and fast-paced environments, where there is easy access to information and ability to work independently. Gen Y enjoys diverse and highly creative work environments that provide many opportunities for collaboration and advancement through training and learning.

Action Step:
Ask a colleague what aspect of their current work environment is most important to them in regard to getting their work done quickly and efficiently.

Significant Events of a Generation: Baby Boomer – The Vietnam War and Draft

“Hell no, we won’t go!”: a common slogan for the anti-Vietnam War movement

The Vietnam War occurred from November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975 and took place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. On one side of the war was the Vietnam People’s Army (Viet Minh) of North Vietnam backed by communist China and supported in South Vietnam by the guerrilla efforts of the communist Viet Cong. The opposing allies of the war were composed of the Republic of Vietnam (the democratic government of Southern Vietnam) France and the United States. The United States joined the war to prevent communist takeover in South Vietnam because they believed it would lead to the communism throughout the region, a strategy known as containment.

In 1955, President Eisenhower deployed the first American troops for military assistance to South Vietnam. The deployment was in response to North Vietnam ignoring the 1954 Geneva Conference decision to hold national elections in 1956 for the reunification of Vietnam. Instead the Viet Minh began training and mobilizing troops to overtake Southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Over the course of 20 years, the war would claim the lives of almost 2 million Vietnamese on both sides of the war including heavy civilian losses.

During the war, over 58,209 American soldiers were killed and 303,704 were wounded. At the time, the Baby-Boomer generation was entering young adulthood and many of the young men born between 1944-1956 faced the threat of being drafted into the war. Officially, the draft of the Vietnam era lasted from 1969-1973 and was from a pool of approximately 27 million young men. The draft raised 2,215,000 men for military service (in the U.S., Vietnam, West Germany, and elsewhere) during the Vietnam era.

The draft also raised widespread anti-war movements across the United States, particularly after people became aware of the failure of the 1968 Tet Offensive. College campuses and major cities such as New York, Washington D.C., Oakland, and Berkeley exploded with protest movements. Selective Services reported that a total of 206,000 persons were reported as conscientious objectors or delinquent for dodging the draft. The number of draft resisters was so great, that they eventually outnumbered the actual draftees, rendering the draft ineffectual.

During the early 1970s-1975, the Nixon administration sought means to end American involvement in the war due to the rising anti-war tension of Americans at home and at war. His administration adopted a policy of Vietnamization, the process of training Southern Vietnamese forces and aiding them with fire power, as well as beginning peace talks with North Korea.  Despite protests by South Korea, the last American troops pulled out of Vietnam by 1974 and on April 30, 1975, the capital of South Korea, Saigon, fell to North Korea. In 1977 after the war, President Carter granted general amnesty to all those men charged with dodging the draft.

Whats Currently Trending With Gen Y

MSN Now
MSN Now is a wonderful site that is real-time tracking of trends on the internet at they occur. The site, which acts like a super-search engine across all the major social media platforms and search engines, compiles a list of updates that automatically updates in real-time as trends occur. The Biggest Movers section gives up to the minute accounts of what the top ten search keywords that are trending. If you want to be in the know in real-time, MSN Now is a great site for tracking the internet’s activity.

Mary Kay Virtual Makeover App
Gen Y loves to be able to customize the looks of friends and celebrities (Beyonce is a favorite) with endless combinations of eye makeup, lip colors, hairstyles, hair colors, accessories and more. Users of this free app can choose a photo from their library, take a picture from their mobile device or select from a variety of models. Gen Y particularly loves sharing their new looks with friends on facebook and twitter.

Generational Quick Tip: Working Hours

Each generation has very different views on the number of hours that should be put in at work and what the amount of time-spent working says about your work value, ethics, and productivity. Baby-Boomers invented the 60-hour workweek and many of their generation believe that working long hours and clocking time at the office is a right of passage that establishes experience, self-worth, and career fulfillment.  As baby-boomers are getting closer to the age of retirement, many of this generation are revising the attitude towards work-hours to include flexibility and work-life balance.  Generation X greatly values work-life balance and the ability to spend more time doing things outside of work. They believe that working smarter, efficiently, and with greater output means that you do not need to spend over 40-hours to achieve quality results. Generation Y also believes in flexibility and work-life balance. They believe strongly that work should be evaluated on work-product – not how, where, and when the work gets completed.

Action Step:
Try not to judge colleagues and employees based off of the amount of time they spend at their desk, but look instead at the value of their work.

Generational Quick Tip: Learning Opportunities and Training

Each generation brings different attitudes towards training and learning opportunities in the workplace. Traditionalists will engage in training if it is clear how the training contributes to the organization’s goals, even if they do not see the personal benefit to their career. Baby-Boomers also want to understand how the training will improve big picture operations at the corporation, but they need to be convinced that training will reap personal rewards, such as career advancement. As the individualists of the company, Generation X is not motivated by the benefits training will have on the company; they see training as an investment in their future and an opportunity to make personal advancements. For Generation Y, who may have only been out of college for a couple of years, training offers an exciting learning opportunity! GenYs love a classroom setting and any opportunity to learn; they are also very ambitious and are looking a competitive edge to place them above their peers. It is important to understand how each generation views training opportunities, so companies can effectively market training opportunities that appeal to employees of all ages.

Action Step:
Clearly state the benefit-case for the company, as well as the benefit-case for the individual, when informing employees about available learning opportunities.

Generational Quotes

“The competencies of both generations are valuable tools in the market place.”
-Sandra Allen O’Connor, VP/GM Boston office of Personnel International Corporation

“You can take as much as you can from the generation that has preceded you, but then it’s up to you to make something new.” -Jackson Browne, Musician

“That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.”
-Adlai Stevenson, U.S. Vice President1893-1897

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.”
-Willa Cather

Generational Quick Tip: Generational Motivation

Each generation is inspired by different values and incentives in the workplace that encourage them to work productively and enthusiastically. Traditionalists are motivated by being respected and told that their experience and contributions matter to the company. They are also motivated by the promise of job security.  Baby-boomers appreciate being told that they are of value to a company and that their skills are needed in order for the company to be successful. They are also motivated by the opportunity to earn high wages, raises, promotions, and benefits. Getting time off and the freedom to complete tasks and projects independently without micro-management or strenuous rules, motivates Generation X. Generation Y is inspired by training opportunities, working in dynamic groups, and flexibility in scheduling. They greatly appreciate time-off, as well as opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community. Understanding how to motivate employees from different generations is important in successfully hiring new employees, improving retention rates, and increasing overall productivity.

Action Step
If you are a manager, at your next check-in with your employees ask questions to assess their current motivation level.  Investigate if there is anything that you can adjust in order to connect the employee with a cause that motivates them and helps them to do their best work.

Significant People of a Generation: Gen X – Michael Jackson

   “Think about the generations and to say we want to make it a better world for our children and our children’s children. So that they know it’s a better world for them; and think if they can make it a better place.”  Intro lyrics to “Heal the World” from Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous

Michael Jackson is an American music icon, who rose to unbelievable fame during the 1980s. Know as the “King of Pop,” Jackson was an inspiration to people of many races and generations, but particularly to the Gen X generation, who were coming of age during the height of his career. If Generation X was the MTV generation, Michael Jackson is accredited as being the first artist to use the music video genre to break racial barriers and produce a stylized art form.

Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He was the eighth child out of ten children: Maureen “Rebbie,” Sigmund “Jackie,” Toriano “Tito,” Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Brandon, Michael, Steven “Randy,” and Janet. The Jacksons were a working-class family, sharing a three-bedroom house. In 1964, Michael, Marlon, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine formed a band called the “Jackson Brothers” later called the “ The Jackson 5.” Their father, Joseph, was known for using abusive and brutal tactics during rehearsals. Later in life, Jackson attributed many of his psychological issues to the abuse he received as a child, but he also argued that his father’s strict discipline contributed greatly to his success.

At the age of eight, Michael Jackson began to share the lead vocals with his brother Jermaine. In 1966, the “Jackson 5” won a major talent contest in the Mid-West and recorded several songs for the local Steeltown label in 1967, followed by a contract with Motown Records in 1968.  The group set a record when their first four singles (“I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There”) all skyrocketed to number one. As lead vocalist, Michael was praised as being a prodigy and his charismatic and magnetic personality on stage made him a nationwide star.

In 1975, the Jackson 5 left Motown and Michael separated to pursue a solo career. In 1978, he partnered up with songwriter Quincy Jones, a musical collaboration that would last for the rest of Jackson’s life. Together they produced several albums that skyrocketed Michael Jackson’s into the position of pop superstar. Off the Wall, their first album recorded in 1979, included contributions from famous artists such as Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney and won Jackson three awards at the AMAs. In 1982, his album Thriller was released, and quickly became the best-selling album of all time, selling 42.3 million copies. The album included such hits as “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” and “P.Y.T” and earned Jackson seven Grammys and eight AMAs. The music video for Thriller was the first and only music video ever to be inducted into the National Film Registry.

In 1983, Michael Jackson performed at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever TV special. The legendary performance debuted Jackson in the iconic sequined black jacket, single rhinestone glove, and introduced his moonwalk dance move to the world.  The impact of the performance has been compared to the Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  Michael Jackson was famous not only for his catchy songs and singing voice, but also for being one of the most talented dancers, choreographers, and overall performers of all time. Many considered Michael Jackson’s music videos and stage productions to be works of art.

As well as becoming a superstar during the 1980s, Michael Jackson devoted much of his influence to philanthropic causes. He donated $1.5 million to the creation of the “Michael Jackson Burn Center” in Culver City, California, after a pyrotechnics accident left him with second-degree burns on his scalp. In 1985, Jackson and Lionel Richie released “We Are the World,” a charity single created to raise awareness and money for people suffering from poverty in the U.S. and Africa.  Other songs, such as “Man in the Mirror” 1988, “Heal the World” 1991, and “Black or White” 1991 are examples of Michael Jackson’s inspirational musical contributions towards social equality and change.  In 1992, Michael Jackson founded the Heal the World Foundation, which donated millions of dollars to help children in poverty around the world. He was also one of the first major celebrities and public figure to speak about AIDs/HIV and to publicly promote charities and research in a time when the stigma surrounding the topic was very controversial.

Along with his great musical and philanthropic successes, Michael Jackson suffered many personal controversies towards the end of his career. Rumors and speculations about his bizarre private life, plastic surgery, and skin color, painted Jackson as mentally unstable. Allegations of pedophilia arose during the 90s, and reemerged in the 2003 People vs. Jackson trial, which found Jackson unanimously not-guilty on all counts. However, despite his health issues and unfavorable public image, Jackson planned on completing his final world tour This is It in 2009. The concert had record-breaking ticket sales, selling over one million tickets in less than two hours.  However, on June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died suddenly of cardiac arrest in his bed in a rented mansion in L.A.

When news of Michael Jackson’s death surfaced, the immediate response of fans and media worldwide was monumental. The overload of simultaneous website searches resulted in crashes for major media sources such as twitter, Wikipedia, TMZ, and the LA Times. News coverage lasted for weeks, tribute concerts popped up all over the world, and over 31 million people tuned in to watch Jackson’s memorial service. Posthumously in 2009, Jackson became the best-selling album artist and was the first artist to sell over 1 million song downloads in a week.

Over his career, he was awarded the World Music Award’s Best-Selling Pop Male Artist of the Millennium, 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards), and has earned 31 Guinness World Records. Many fans and critics believe that Jackson was a genius and one of the most influential artists of all time. For the Gen X generation that witnessed his amazing accomplishments and listened to his messages of hope, he was a beloved and mysterious icon, linked intrinsically with their coming-of-age.

Generational Quick Tip: Taking Risks

Whether or not a generation is prone to taking risks is a part of their cultural filter.  Being an “intrapreneur” means being an employee who brings an entrepreneurial spirit to a company and is not afraid to spend time working on “risky” projects: exploring uncharted territory and taking on challenging projects outside their area of expertise. But how does each of generation stack up when it comes to viewing themselves as entrepreneurs? According to a recent study, 45% of Baby-boomers believe that they have an entrepreneurial spirit are willing to take risks, while 42% of the Gen X generation feels they are entrepreneurial. However, only 32% of Gen Y identifies as being entrepreneurial.

Action Step:
To foster “intrapreneurial” drive in your company, create mentoring pairs between Baby-boomers or Gen X with a Gen Y colleague to help Gen Y increase the confidence in their entrepreneurial spirit and to bring a fresh perspective on projects.

Diversity Statistics

  • As of 2010, the most diverse communities in the US are disproportionately western, southern and coastal metropolitan areas and their principal cities and suburbs.
  • In 1900, only 1 in 8 residents of the US claimed non-European origins. Today 3 in 10 do.
    Source: 2010 Census

Growth of the Hispanic Population by County from 2000 to 2010
Top 5 Counties:
1) Stewart County, GA            1740%
2) Telfair Country, GA            842%
3) Beadle County, SD              762%
4) Adams Country, MS             687%
5) Trempealeau County, WI    594%
Source: Pew Hispanic Center analysis
of Decennial Censuses

Latinos are the nation’s biggest and youngest minority group.  They make up:

  • 16% of the total US population
  • 18% of all 16- to 25-year-olds
  • 20% of all school age children
  • 25% of newborns

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

2010 Census Demographics

  • 308.7 million US residents
  • 16% of US population Hispanic
(50.5 million)
  • Hispanic population grew by 43% from 2000 to 2010
  • White non-Hispanic population
grew by 1% from 2000 to 2010
  • 97% of people reported belonging
to only one race72% White alone (223.6 million)
  • 72% White alone
(223.6 million)
  • 13% Black or African-American alone
(38.9 million)
  • 5% Asian alone (14.7 million)
  •   0.9% American Indian and Alaska Native alone
(2.9 million)
  • 0.2% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone (500,000)

Source: US Census

Generational Quotes

“Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations. All this is put in your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children.”
-Albert Einstein

“Anyone who stops is old, whether at 20 or at 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
-Henry Ford

“If future generations are to remember
us more with gratitude than sorrow,
we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as
it was created, not just as it looked
when we got through with it.”
-Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th US President

“Use your lives wisely, my friends, and conserve these precious freedoms for future generations.”
-Ted Nugent, Musician

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them
to do the same.”
-Ronald Reagan, 40th US President

Generational Quick Tip: Generational Skill Sets

Every generation has special work assets that they bring to the workplace and to their teams. Understanding these special talents and providing opportunities for employees from each generation to foster their skills can greatly improve their individual work experience and can bring success and improved results to the team or company.  Traditionalists are very consistent, loyal, and detail oriented. They bring the wisdom of experience in the workplace, which can provide a needed prospective on new problems.  Baby-boomers are great at seeing the big picture and are able to break down the big picture into assignments, which makes them great team leaders. Generation X are great task managers and multi-taskers; very independent workers, they will produce high-quality results with little direction when given the right tools. Generation Y have a positive attitude, and thrive off from collaboration. They are highly competent with technology and capable of fast multitasking.

Action Step:
When working with an employee from a different generation, try to identify one of their strong skill sets and share it with the team.

Generational Quotes

“Every generation wants to be the last. Every generation hates the next trend in music they can’t understand. We hate to give up those reins of our culture. To find our own music playing in elevators. The ballad for our revolution, turned into background music for a television commercial. To find our generation’s clothes and hair suddenly retro.” 
-Chuck PalahniukLullaby

“We may consider each generation as a separate nation, with a right, by the will of the majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.”
-Thomas Jefferson

“I hope the World War II generation doesn’t lose that quality that made them so appealing: their modesty, and the way they are always looking forward and seldom back.”
-Tom Brokaw

“The man who views the world at 50
the same as he did at 20 has wasted
30 years of his life.”
-Muhammad Ali

“If future generations are to remember
us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the
miracles of technology. We must also
leave them a glimpse of the world as
it was created, not just as it looked
when we got through with it.”
-Lyndon B. Johnson

“The year I was born, 1956, was the
peak year for babies being born, and
there are more people essentially our
age than anybody else. We could
crush these new generations if 
we decided too.”
-Tom Hanks