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Generational Differences?

If  asked to describe the distinctive traits of our baby boomer generation how would you respond?  What about your adult children?  How would they describe the “personality” of millenials? How do the  generations differ?

 For a new study, The Pew Research Center polled Gen Y (called “millennials,” aged 18-29) about a range of issues from future hopes to sleeping with cell phones. (87 percent do; not surprising since a cell is also used for texts, emails and as an alarm clock.)

 While the 149-page “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change” dissected lots of information from several recent surveys, two sections on generational identity were most intriguing.

 More than 60 percent of millennials believe their generation is distinct and unique.  In what ways? They  cited technology, music/pop culture, liberal/tolerant attitudes, intelligence and clothes.  Indeed they do multi-tech. I had to look no further than my daughter a few nights ago who was simultaneously watching the “The Blind Side” DVD, checking out the background of the movie on her laptop, and answering text messages on her Blackberry.   

Missing from the list?  Work! That trait headed the Baby Boomer list, followed by respect and values/morals as characteristics unique to the millennials’ parents.  The Washington Post saw this difference in attitude toward work as a evidence of a “cultural clash.” In a photo gallery that accompanied the story, the newspaper noted,

 Millenials: Not so Hard at Work—and Proud of It. As millenials in the workforce encounter Generation X and the baby boomers, a cultural clash is emerging: Millenials do not consider “work ethic” a top characteristic of their age group.

 Of course, this pseudo trend is not new. For most of the last decade, consultants have been advising managers how to handle  whose lives don’t revolve around work. That became somewhat of a non-issue with the Great Recession.  No one, including millennials, was getting hired anyway. Also as the survey authors noted, a comparison is not always fair becasue the various generations are obviously at different points in their lives  and do not share experiences that impact what they most highly value.  Here’s a good sign: 52 percent said being a “good parent” is “one of the most important things in life.”

 Another  intriguing section concerned money and work. Only than 30 percent of employed millennials say they earn enough money to live their desired  lifestyle. So does that relegate them to a lifetime of diminished expectations as some experts predict?  Certainly not: 88 percent of that same group expects to earn enough to live a better lifestyle in the future. It’s nice to know that hope springs eternal even in these trying economic times.

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