Understanding Thought Patterns: A Key to Corporate Leadership?
1. Know the three major generational influences that make up the majority of the current workforce and their different perspectives and influences.
2. Understand how decision biases may impede effective decision making.
Generational Influences on Work Behavior
Psychologist Kurt Lewin, known as the “founder of social psychology,” created a well-known formula B = ƒ(P,E) that states behavior is a function of the person and their environment. One powerful environmental influence that can be seen in organizations today is based on generational differences. Currently, four generations of workers (traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y) coexist in many organizations. The different backgrounds and behaviors create challenges for leading these individuals that often have similar shared experiences within their generation but different sets of values, motivations, and preferences in contrast to other generations (Table 10.8 “Managing Generational Differences”). Effective management of these four different generations involves a realization of their differences and preferred communication styles (Rathman, 2011).
The generation born between 1925 and 1946 that fought in World War II and lived through the Great Depression are referred to as traditionalists. The perseverance of this generation has led journalist Tom Brokaw to dub this group “The Greatest Generation.” As a reflection of a generation that was molded by contributions to World War II, members of this generation value personal communication, loyalty, hierarchy, and are resistant to change. This group now makes up roughly 5 percent of the workforce.
Photographer Dorothea Lange’s photo Migrant Mother, taken in 1936, embodied the struggles of the traditionalist generation that
lived during the Great Depression.
Wikimedia Commons – public domain.