LanWhen 03-5-52




Who They Are.  Why They Clash.  How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work


Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman

HarperBusiness, 2002, 350 pp. 



The authors blend descriptions of key characteristics of three adult generations with recommendations for how to meet their different needs and values regarding career paths, rewards, balance, retirement, work atmosphere, recruiting, retaining, and managing.  Although much has already been written and digested about the generations, these practical and innovative suggestions for management will be quite helpful to both managers and human resource personnel.  The particular issues and perspectives of the Boomer and GenXer authors are entertaining and enlightening.


“ClashPoints are those trouble spots where generational conflicts are most likely to explode.”  (xxv)


Each generation brings its own set of values, beliefs, life experiences, and attitudes to the workplace.  (4)  They carry their ‘generational personalities’ throughout their lives. (8)


Traditionalists.  1900-1945 (2 adult generations).  Key word: loyal.  Worked together toward common goals to accomplish great things.  Faith in large institutions.  Patriotism.  Frugal.  >50% are veterans who learned to get things down through chain-of-command.


Baby Boomers. 1965-1964.  Key word: optimistic.  Grew up in affluence.  Intent on fixing what’s wrong.  Idealists who question the status quo and push for change.  Competitive.  Identified with what they do and achieve at work.  Working toward change of command.


Generation Xers. 1965-1980.  Smaller generation but influential.  Key word: skepticism.  Grew up with new media.  Resourceful and independent.   Eager for self-command.


Millennials. 1981-1999.  Another very large demographic boom.  Key word: realistic.  Confident and pragmatic.  Appreciate and expect diversity.  Have been included in family decisions since infancy and bring this quality to work.  Don’t command—collaborate.


“A generational identity is a state of mind shaped by many events and influences.  Only you can define what generation you fit into.”  (32)


Career security differs from job security.  Traditionalists who stayed long at a company to work their way up wanted job security.  For career security, “build a portfolio of sills and experiences that guarantees that no matter what cataclysmic event occurs, you’ll be able to land on your feet.”  (54) 


Clashpoint around career goals:

            Traditionalists . . .        Build a legacy

            Baby Boomers . . .       Build a stellar career

            Generation Xers . . .    Build a portable career

            Millennials . . .             Build parallel careers   (55)


Traditionalists often felt a deep sense of loyalty to the places they worked.  (55)


Generation Xers greatest fear is that they might become stagnant.  “This is a generation searching for a place to call home.” (58-9)


Millennials are building extensive portfolios for college admission!  They are true multi-taskers and are capable of learning several jobs simultaneously.  (65)  Millennials are expected to make up to 10 career (not job) changes!  (66)


Many traditionalists see work as duty; Boomers see it as self-fulfillment; and Xers as a way to be compensated.  (76)


Clashpoint around Rewards: (77)

   Traditionalists . . .     The satisfaction of a job well done

   Baby Boomers . . .    Money, title, recognition, corner office

   Generation Xers . . . Freedom is the ultimate reward

   Millennials . . .          Work that has meaning; making a difference 


For many Boomers trying to stand out from the crowd and compete for jobs, workaholism became a badge of honor.  The American workday has been getting longer since 1950.  (99-100)


Baby Boomers who have identified with their career will continue with a series of alternative careers after retirement.  They will ‘retool.’  “Their considerable level of education and work experience will make many of them sought-after leaders, consultants, and mentors.”  (129-30)