Generation Gaps and Motivation efforts

Differences in sets of values held by different age groups are often called generation gaps. During the 1960s in the United States, the generation gap was a rift about issues such as American involvement in the Vietnam War, sexual behavior, and authority in general. Aapproaching the year 2000, a number of commentators have observed a new generation gap between a kind of attitude called “baby boomer” and a kind of attitude called “baby buster”. The so called “baby boomers” were born during the post World War II (1946–64) birthrate boom and the so called “baby busters” were born after 1964. In discussing this gap, we do not mean that everyone born after 1964 adopts this attitude, however. The labels refer only to two contrasting sets of beliefs.

These commentators describe this latest “generation gap” as a split over future prospects for fulfillment in the workplace. The implications for managers are significant, because this gap can represent a challenge to the longstanding idea that managers must be motivators and that employees need motivating pushes (or shoves) from their managers. A recent Fortune report enumerated these differences between “boomer” and “buster” attitudes regarding the workplace.

1. Busters think boomers are blocking their way, while boomers want busters to “wait your turn”.
2. Busters think boomers do too much politicking and too little work while boomers think busters are naïve about workplace relationships.
3. Busters think boomers are “stuck in the old hierarchies”. While boomers think busters “have no respect for authority.”
4. Busters think boomers are not current on technology and boomers don’t want to be reminded of that fact.

A strong current of self motivation runs throughout these four observations. “Boomers” who manage “busters” have good reason to rethink how they try to motivate or even whether motivation needs to be replaced by some other means of relating to these organizational colleagues with different beliefs. In truth, there is more than one generation gap in the contemporary. A catchy two generation gap profile, with a technological focus, has been prepared by Towers Perrin, a management consulting firm. Among the highlights of this profile are these descriptions:

1. Someone with a “computer babies” perspective admires Steve Jobs (Apple Computer co-founder) as a role model, looks to Watergate as the most influential historical event, and is motivated primarily by rewarding challenges.
2. Someone with a “TV babies” perspective looks to President John F Kennedy as a role model, remembers the Vietnam War as a pivotal historical event, and is motivated primarily by money and flex time.
3. Someone with a “radio babies” perspective looks to John Wayne as a role model, was deeply influenced by the Great Depression, and is primarily motivated by status and security.

As the new century dawns, managers will have to deal with these three generations of perspectives on the workplace, in addition to new generations that will have started to enter the workplace, such as a “virtual reality” generation and a “green” generation. Motivation theory and practice, durable and flexible for decades,, faces unprecedented challenges as the new century dawns.

Motivation Efforts by all managers:

At Wal-Mart, it’s not just the CEO who takes responsibility for motivating associates. Regional vice presidents, such as Andy Wilson, also pitch in. Just before the opening of store no. 1,784 in Salem, Oregon, Wilson offered words of encouragement : I’m really fired up … This is going to be a great store, and I just want you to know how much we appreciate the job you’re doing. Give yourselves a hand. His words echoed the often repeated words of Walton and Glass. My job isn’t important … You’re the people who make it happen. And after rounds of applause, the group engaged in the Wal-Mart cheer: Give me a W! Give me an A!

During their visits, the regional vice presidents interact with associates on the floor to ensure that adequate service is being offered. For example, when visiting an outlet in Susanville, California, Wilson did not hesitate to point out areas of weakness. In calling attention to areas that needed work, he said to district manager Rick Crawford. You have a great opportunity here. According to Wal-Mart standards, such comments constituted a reprimand. But he gave Crawford the authority to make and implement the necessary decisions: he told Crawford, whatever you need to do, do it.