Diversity and inclusion is both obvious and nuanced layered with intersectionality. I learned the meaning of the word intersectionality six years ago when I worked with a predominantly millennial work team. I’ll expand on that experience later.
Organizations not only have to deal with race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability. religion, age and personality differences, they also have to be mindful of generational issues. Five generations with general characteristics or tendencies are currently in the workforce: Traditionalists (1922-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Generation Y/Millennials (1981-1995) and Generation Z (1996-2010).
According to the literature* here are the generalizations about the generations: Traditionalists are satisfied knowing they’ve done their jobs’ well; adhering to the “honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” philosophy. Baby Boomers seek a stellar career with money, title, and recognition; sometimes called the “me generation”. Generation X desire work-life balance. They look for satisfaction outside of work. They prefer flexibility over structure and lean toward portable careers. Occasionally misunderstood by previous generations is Generation Y (Millennials). They are socially conscious, value meaningful work and champion diversity. They are not necessarily interested in a straight line, up-the-corporate ladder career path. Generation Z can be described as hard-working problem solvers. They are devoted to and get personally involved in social causes; often called digital natives.
With the passage of time there are few Traditionalists left in the workforce. The youngest would be 76 this year. If you encounter those remaining, I hope the brief description above provides a little insight of how they view the world of work. You are more likely to encounter younger Baby Boomers, Millennials and Generation Y’ers.
Generalizations are dangerous if used to oversimplify or stereotype. My intent for this article is to use generalizations to provide an understanding of how the environments in which people grew up shaped their view of and engagement in the workplace. With a basic understanding of differences between generations and other factors, everything comes together by focusing on intersectionality. In other words, rather than looking at differences as obstacles, maximize the strengths of each generation and their backgrounds, then seek to understand what is unclear. The objective is to determine what works in the best interest of the population your organization serves without sacrificing productivity and positive work relationships. *(Sources: “Engaging the Workplace Across Generations: Meeting the Needs of the Five Distinct Generations in Today’s Workplace.”, produced by Human Resource Executive, produced by Workday; “When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work”, Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman (www.generations.com}