Generations at Workplace

The comfort level, participation, and the energy levels of the younger employees in our doHow® Game sessions, which primarily drive thinking and expressing own opinions, is significantly better. This week I stopped procrastinating my research to seek an answer to this phenomenon and believe to have found some answers, that I am sharing in this blog.

For starters, at this moment in the workspace 6 generations are spoken of, 2 of which are not relevant, the “Builders” having faded away and the “Gen Alpha” still getting ready for professional life. The other four “Baby Boomers” – ~12.5%, “Gen X” – ~29%, “Millennials” or “Gen Y” – ~37% and “Gen Z” ~21.5% are today seen to be part of the workforce across the globe. The “Gen Z”, however, mostly in the roles of individual contributors.


The power or dominance of the leaders has diminished over the generations in accordance with the leadership styles, transitioning from Theory X through Theory Y to Theory Z. I remember doing a managerial development program in Brazil during early 1990s, when a colleague of mine and me were the only two whose leadership style was inclined towards Theory Y after our entire leadership team took a psychometric test. Sitting back, I can even today think of some Theory X leaders who are still leading teams, many, unfortunately, delivering mediocre results.

The learning style development over generation, was a very good base for me to understand the phenomenon I spoke of in the beginning. Once this need was met, I went on to identify some criteria, important for effectiveness at work, and have depicted the change in the form of curves on a subjective scale from low to high. The pink patch you see in this infographic, is the phase of a kind of a tectonic shift in the level of each criteria. Let me explain each of them briefly.

Conformity: The man’s thirst for discovery, combined with the education levels is the main contributor to the conformity gradually coming down the scale towards low. Just following some practice, because the parents followed, without knowing the reasons, has always been a challenge to me as a child and now I see the same with our daughter. We can say that the next generation have their ways, the same way our parents must have thought of us. The reducing trend in my opinion is a favourable effect from the perspective of evolution. This will continue with a slow downward trend in the coming generations too.

Excellence: This is a very significant adverse effect on us human beings, as the desire to strive for perfection has got reduced during the 1990s. Some contributors to this change could be the increase in possible diversions – video, multimedia, gaming, internet, etc. on the one hand and the opening of the global economy, the development of the capability maturity model combined with improvement in process maturity and the introduction of lean principles, on the other. I believe that the process maturity and excellence become indirectly proportional if the drive for continual improvement is missing. Apart from this, the intensified emphasis during the 1990s on a key leadership trait of complimenting as a motivator, possibly has led to many leaders complimenting freely, again leading to a deterioration in the mastery itself. In my opinion this development can be reversed by going back to the basics – reporting, reviewing, demanding, encouraging, guiding, etc.

Purpose: While the conformity has consistently reduced, the drive to find and follow a purpose has increased significantly, which is extremely favourable to the humanity. The later generations especially those born to the “Gen X”, are very much interested in knowing the big picture and the greater purpose in whatever they are doing. I really love seeing this development speaking to the students, who are so much excited with the larger picture instead of just starting to work as an individual contributor. I can think of many kids of our family friends who have embarked on journeys to find solutions to huge problems in our society today. This desire to seek a purpose with a reduced level of conformity, truly demonstrates the power of our human race.

Work-Life: Another favourable trend I notice is the gradual increase in the level of work-life balance over the generations. I remember me working for almost 80 hours a week during 1998, when I was in Germany, and feeling very proud and important. When I look back, I think I was really an idiot. At the same time, I feel blessed for having had the opportunity to see the world along with my family in my 20s and 30s. I feel happy that our daughter, instead of hoarding leaves (vacation days), decides to go on short holidays with her friends. I am sure the later generations are realising the importance of enjoying the present. With the later generations demonstrating reduced conformity and seeking a clear purpose, it is quite interesting to contemplate that this favourable shift may also be arising from the kids observing of their parents’ busy work schedules.

Information: Internet and Smart Phones have just created a big bang in our society and many say, there is still a lot to come. The relative higher level of information the later generations possess is truly incredible. The education content has increased substantially. Multimedia has taken the learning platform to a totally new level. Today, I can go for a walk and read a book, an audio book. I do not want to further explain this at all. Instead, I want to speak of the impact of imagination with this clockspeed of learning. When I would read a book, the ease for me to pause and imagine and relish that moment was much better when compared to either listening to an audio book or watching a video. Therefore, I believe the ability to imagine has reduced, while the information content has increased. This in my opinion has led to a larger gap in knowing and doing.

I am sure the coming generations with a better clarity in purpose and access to information, will create wonders and progress much faster. Of course, the technology will to a great extent compensate the reduced urge for excellence. I am sure sufficient redundancies in technology will be planned and implemented, since the collapse of technology can be detrimental to existence itself, in the coming decades. Apart from this, a more balanced work-life will surely make life much more complete and enjoyable than it is now.

I want to conclude this blog with a quote by George Bernard Shaw:

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Let us ask ourselves – “What are we leaving behind for our future generations?”

Happy reading!

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