Science behind generational differences at work

After years of frequent and passionate discussions about generational differences, together with what millennials need at work, why they’re is essentially the most entitled technology in historical past, and learn how to instill a way of belonging in your Gen Z staff, the tide is lastly turning. Certainly, the previous few weeks alone have seen quite a few stories on why generational differences are utter nonsense, and why all the things you hear in regards to the topic is greatest ignored.

As all the time, the reality is a little more nuanced than both excessive suggests, so now is an efficient time to focus on a few of the widespread flaws of standard discussions about generations, and what science truly reveals in regards to the subject.

Let’s begin with the issues, that are twofold. The primary is that feedback are sometimes primarily based on subjective impressions, anecdotes, or widespread sense; the second is that a lot of the info reported conflates generational differences with age differences, together with many extensively publicized surveys. Decide any survey you want, and there’s a 95% probability that they simply report cross-sectional (relatively than time-lagged) information, that means they’re merely evaluating differences between ages. 

One other problem is that even when these issues are addressed, and precise differences in a technology are reported, the impact sizes of generational differences are small, and scientific evaluations had long concluded that the differences in generations are usually overhyped and overrated.

There’s an actual danger to not simply generalize, but in addition stereotype, people inside a technology. In case you actually care about range and inclusion, then it is best to actually strive to concentrate to what issues most: particular person relatively than group differences. This implies understanding what makes every individual a singular human being, and the way they differ from everybody else. This doesn’t require you to disclaim that group differences, together with generational differences, may exist. In spite of everything, there are additionally gender, age, cultural, and nationwide differences in persona, values, attitudes, and so forth.


These limitations apart, we must always not ignore the precise science on the topic, which over the previous a long time does certainly report some group differences between generations, even when they’re normal and small results (they’re nonetheless statistically vital, and maybe additionally noticeable). These research have the benefit of controlling for age whereas evaluating variability in generations. For instance, by analyzing how folks of their 20s felt about one thing within the Fifties, 70s, 90s, 00s, and so forth. Listed here are some findings to focus on.

Satisfaction quotient

Older generations are barely more satisfied with their jobs than youthful generations. Since this impact is just not pushed by age, which is clearly positively correlated with profession success (the older you might be, the extra superior you might be in your profession), there are two apparent hypotheses right here:

  • jobs are much less thrilling at present than previously
  • youthful folks have a lot larger expectations for his or her jobs and careers, which maybe explains why they’re extra more likely to be disenchanted

In spite of everything, the key to happiness is to have low expectations and be pleasantly shocked.

Quitting quotient

Youthful generations are additionally extra likely to quit their jobs. This was true previous to the present Nice Resignation and appears to have much less to do with generational adjustments in job-hopping, than precise adjustments within the job market. For example, in the US, the common job tenure for folks aged 25-34 is lower than 3-years, whereas, for these aged 55 or over, it’s practically 10 years. 

Work ethic

GenX and millennials categorical a weaker work ethic, see work as much less central to their lives, worth leisure, and search extra freedom and work-life steadiness than their predecessors. Not so way back, we could have interpreted this as an indication of their laziness. Now we in all probability see this as widespread sense, and will even be slightly envious of them. 



Opposite to standard perception, youthful generations are less altruistic, so in a world that more and more embraces ESG, prosocial behaviors, and mandate-driven careers, it isn’t actually true that youthful generations are extra tuned to those causes than their predecessors. 


No less than within the U.S., narcissism is rising, going up from one technology to the next. By at present’s requirements, a narcissistic persona of the Thirties could be seen as humble, self-critical, and affected by imposter syndrome. Likewise, in fifty years’ time, we could look again at at present’s world and see Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West as relatively modest and low-key except the pattern will be reversed. This sounds each controversial and relatively apparent at the identical time, however for certain there are vital moral and ethical implications to ignoring the rise of narcissism, entitlement, and delusional self-obsessions of grandiosity if we actually need to make the world a greater place. 

Whereas there are some vital differences between generations, these are not often represented in standard discussions on the subject, which have a tendency to explain differences not supported by any strong or dependable information. This usually leads to unfounded stereotypes about generations, which is able to all the time embrace a wealthy mixture of those who characterize all personalities, values, and skills. Making an effort to know every individual for who they’re, and treating them as a person relatively than a member of a demographic group, is not only the fairest strategy, but in addition essentially the most correct psychological strategy to have interaction with them. 


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