Communicate Blog

The Generation Gap in Information Technology jobs

Sandra Olivier - Wednesday, February 01, 2012

generations Image: africa /

The workplace is facing a generational adjustment of values, learning and working styles that will have a huge impact on how leaders think and act, especially in information technology jobs. What many managers fail to see are the generational tensions simmering among their employees that threaten to lower morale, increase turnover and hobble a department’s ability to produce wins for the business.

The relations among the generations seem to be at a low point. Gen Y (defined as people born after 1982) thinks Gen X (spawned between 1961 and 1981) is a bunch of whiners. Gen X sees Gen Y as arrogant and entitled. And everyone thinks the Baby Boomers (1943 to 1960) are self-absorbed workaholics.

Gen Y tends to have a different set of work-life values than boomers. Baby Boomers usually put work first, and Generation Xers try to juggle equally work and family, while Generation Y wants to spend quality and meaningful time in both.

What is the biggest conflict experienced?

Members of older generations often view work as a place - a location you go to at a specified time, say from 8:30 to 17h00. The reality is that the nature of work in most sectors of the economy has changed, which means that today most tasks do not require teams to be present at one location.

In contrast, younger workers tend to view work as something you do, no matter the place or the time. They have grown up in a world – filled with technology that allowed them to communicate and access media at any time. It is therefore not surprising that many Gen Y's consider the rigidity of set work hours as unnecessary and part of the ideology of a generation gone by. They believe that the 09h00 – 17h00 routine spent in an "official" office is giving way to the virtual work environment the at-my-desk-by-8:59 is becoming the on-my-Blackberry 24/7.

It should come as no surprise that communication is one of the biggest areas of conflict between generations. Generation Y’s prefer to communicate via blogs, IMs and text messages. In contrast, the Baby Boomers and Generation X prefer the phone or face-to-face communication. Younger generations increasingly will enter the workplace hyper-connected, expecting to use their devices and do their jobs the way they work best. They will challenge the need to commute daily and are of the opinion that without office meetings and interruptions, they are more productive.

An increasingly diverse range of workers and new types of companies are forcing a re-definition of what it means to be an employee, what it means to offer someone a job, and how to compensate workers. It takes innovative leaders to break from old habits but the wave of change is inevitable.

 It’s about being strategic and staying competitive. Are your company embracing these changes? How would you like your future workplace to look and be managed?