Generational attitudes and behaviour


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Generational attitudes and behaviour

  1. 1. Generational Attitudes and Behaviour___________________________________________________________________________________________Prof. Dr. Murray Hunter 511 2012Hunter, Murray; Generational Attitudes and Behaviour;, Hamburg, Deutschland, 2012;online im Internet unter;Stand*:
  2. 2. Generational Attitudes and Behaviour It can be clearly seen that generational attitudes have influence upon thinking and behavior. A generationcan be considered a segment of the population who have shared experiences and have a sense of history thatinfluences their thinking and behavior today. In Western countries like the United States and Canada in NorthAmerica, most countries in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand can be considered to have threedistinct generations that influence society today, the baby boomers, generation X and generation Y. The babyboomer generation came in a mass population bubble after World War Two until around 1964. Generation Xare the children of the baby boomers born between 1965 and 1979. Generation Y are the children of generationX couples and include those born between 1980 and 1999. The baby boomer generation were the children of parents of the silent generation. Fathers of the babyboomers were generally too young to have served in World War II and both parents would have gone throughthe great depression. This would have had a profound effect upon the values baby boomers were brought upupon. Their parents would have had a grave, conventional, conservative, fatalistic outlook on life and werealso perhaps confused morally, indifferent, unadventurous and disappointed with what life had brought them. The baby boomer generation was extremely large because of the relative political stability after the SecondWorld War. They were much more optimistic than their parents due to the economic boom from post warreconstruction and the following years of steady industrial development. Baby boomers tended to reject thetraditional values of their parents, religion and became much more individualistic and liberal. Baby boomers idealistically looked for social change. They experimented with different ideas, lifestyles,sexual freedoms, ways of thinking, as the hippy movement exhibited during the late 60’s. Baby boomers werefree spirited, open, tried to be fair and took up social causes. This was the time when the civil rights, anti-warand women’s movement emerged and politics became a mass event where two clearly defined sides (liberaland conservative) developed. The heroes to many at the time would have been John F. Kennedy, Martin LutherKing, and Malcolm X, etc. Baby boomers were witnesses to rapid development of technology and came to appreciate and accept it.They saw the space race, the arms race, the invention of the transistor, television, the green revolution inagriculture, and great improvements in medicine, i.e., the first heart transplant. Baby boomers probably gotthe idea that mankind could control and harness nature during this time. They became the healthiest generationso far and life expectancies increased dramatically. Baby boomers in their mature working years accepted the system, not only becoming part of it, but beingthe ones responsible for building it to what it is today. The 70’s and 80’s were the time of rapid corporategrowth where the baby boomers were workaholics. They competed with their peers and became a relativelyfinancially well off group. They respected success and achievement as an important institutional foundation.Having the latest gadgets (colour TV, Mobile phone, luxury car, etc) became the baby boomer status symbolsdefining class to some extent. When baby boomers got to the top of the corporate and political ladders, their conservatism came out. Thewords ‘politically correct’ became a euphemism for taboo subjects, Gordon Gekko’s cry of ‘greed is good’1reflected a desire of many and much of the western world adopted the philosophies of ‘Reaganomics’ and‘Thatcherism’2. Subconsciously the baby boomers hoped for immortality, which could be seen in what wasbuilt during the baby boomer era was something meant to last as a legacy. Baby boomers believed whatworked yesterday will still work tomorrow and try to deny the transition of time and change. This is reflectedin some baby boomers still eager to maintain the helms of the empires and institutions they helped to build andtheir failure to provide for retirement provisions and death3 4. Generation X is a dramatically smaller population group than the preceding baby boomer generation.Generation X grew up during the final years of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and through the Reagan and BushSenior era in the United States. They also witnessed the end of the Cold War, the expansion of globalism, theintroduction of the early home computers, radical changes to the media industry and the early days of MTV.
  3. 3. Generation X grew up with continual change and continual introduction of new technologies. As aconsequence, Generation X is accustomed to a changing environment. Generation X is generally better educated than their parents. They became adults during the late 1980’sand have been described as pragmatic, perceptive, savvy but amoral, and more focused on money than on art5.They believe in sex before marriage but not the free sex that was practiced during the baby boom era, probablybecause of the event of HIV/AIDS. Generation X is also known as the divorce generation. Couples tend tobreak up rather than stick out and work through relationship problems like previous generations. There is notthe same social stigma about divorce and it has become the easiest option. Generation X as a group has tendedto respect their parents less than previous generations6. Generation X’ers generally earn less than their fathers, but the combined incomes of couples, where thefemale has her own career, is more than the family incomes of the baby boomer generation. Generation X isalso generally hocked in debt through heavy credit card utilization and paying off mortgages and student loans.Generation X has had to struggle financially harder than their parents due to a number of economic downturnsover the last two decades. Although some became millionaires, there are many that have had to struggle tomake ends meet in this generation. Generation X is now beginning to turn 40 and starting to replace the baby boomers as they retire fromcorporate life. Generation X tends to work in highly skilled and specialized jobs, like working in a ‘collegial’manner and like to be valued for their talents. They are attached more to their profession than the company.They also accept changing technologies and new ways of doing things much more readily than the babyboomers. Generation X sees entrepreneurship as a viable and challenging career option. As parents, Generation X has looked after their children well and struggled to give them all they want.Although they have many things in common with their children, the excitement of new technologies andmultitasking, etc, the children of Generation X have generally seen things very differently than their parents. Generation Y is another large populous group like the baby boomer generation. They have grown up withcomputers, multi-channel satellite and cable TV, mobile phones, instant messaging and other high-tech gadgetslike iPods, etc. They have been the most cared for generation in history, and even though news is accessible inan instant exposing the problems of the world, they are most sheltered and protected7 . Generation Y, alsoknown as the Millennial Generation has been shaped by the events and trends of the late 1990’s andMillennium decade, where 9/11, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, global warming, the boom and bust havehad profound effects on their sense of morality and civic natures. The advent of the internet, mobile phones,instant communications and social networking sites have connected this generation to their peers around theclock, where this generation is truly socially orientated. The Millennial personality according to Strauss and Howe is based on a rejection of the perceived laxnessof their parents during the 60’s and 70’s and their exposure to globalization, multiracial and multi-ethnicdiversity. Their traits therefore contrast with their parents8. They ignore tradition and religion, where they werebored going to church and didn’t see the point of it. Generation Y have become agnostic, secular, unengaged,or picked up their own mix of beliefs as they have gone along. They have a religious apathy as they have beentaught to be materialist9. Generation Y is idealistic, reactive, and adaptive, even though they are perceived bythose outside their generation as problematic and irresponsible. The majority are not interested or evenapathetic towards politics and politicians10. However paradoxically young people were at the front of therebellion in Burma during 2007, the 2009-10 Iranian election protests and the overthrowing of the Mubarakregime in Egypt in February 2011. Friends and relationships are very important to them. Personal networksform part of their own support system and are also the source of entertainment and news, which filters the waythe deal with the world. Many generation Y’ers have both a real and virtual world, with the average personspending around 5 hours a week playing on-line games and the heavy players spending 5 to 6 hours per nightplaying11. Generation Y has become over-reliant on their parents, often returning to live with them after graduationin their adult life. Although this is seen as an easy way out to life by some, their attachment to their parents
  4. 4. may have more to do with genuine family orientation12 . This has probably come about as a reaction to thedivorce culture of the previous generation, where Generation Y appears to be strongly attached to theirmothers13. Generation Y appears to be a self confident generation. Based on influence from their workaholic parents,Generation Yers believe they must build strong resumes and become skilled to get on in life14. They believethat success comes through hard work and this external drive is what motivates them, rather than innerambitions15. They are not like the previous generations where college was a place of enlightenment. Althoughthey enjoy school and university they don’t forget the reason why they are there is to get good grades.Generation Y has a ‘work hard, play hard’ outlook to life16. Although Generation Y tends to be externally motivated, they are still very calculative and rationalisticabout long range plans, thinking carefully about finance, the value of certain degrees and potential salaries,etc17. However with this powerful external motivation and lifestyle, many young people are coming down withanxiety and stress18. Generation Y have a sense of entitlement, feeling the workplace should be built around them19 and have ahigh expectation of their employers. They tend to question and what to know why things are done the way theyare. They seek responsibility and flexible deadlines have a desire to be praised by their employers. They seekpraise almost instantly in a similar manner to receiving rewards in video games that they play during leisure20 .They seek a fun workplace with meaning attached to the work they do and approach their tasks in aparticipative manner21. Balance in work and leisure is important to them. Generation Y is generally good at multitasking and have entrepreneurial initiative. They generally want tomake a difference and feel strong about social responsibility. However, although most like to follow rules,increasing competitiveness is increasing and for some, cheating in exams is seen as a way to get ahead22.Cutting and pasting any information from any source to do an assignment is something they do withoutthinking of where the information comes from and issues of copyright23. They are used to getting immediateanswers to any question through the internet24. Recent economic conditions have made things very difficult for this generation where many are facingdifficulties in getting work after graduating. Youth unemployment is very high and causing social unrest asyouths face many hardships25 . This generation is less likely to be able to afford buying a home than the onesbefore them. Generation Yers have high expectations of themselves, constantly trying to solve their own problems andtake the challenges that come their way. They can work quickly but need definite objectives to motivate26.Traditional motivational measures such as promotions and bonuses don’t excite them much27. Due to theirupbringing, generation Y is adaptable to change and value mentoring and training28. Generation Y has anentrepreneurial spirit, tremendous energy that can give them an advantage, but they are still naïve about thebusiness world29. However they are prepared to go into business and fail if necessary and move forward afterthat. They prefer to start with partners as they know the value of collaboration and co-operative learning30.However entrepreneurship tends to be a means to an end rather than an end in itself unlike previousgenerations. Generation Y has many implications for the market environments now in the present and in the future asmore join the workforce and collective income dramatically increases in the next few years. Millennials expecta greater range and variety of things whether it is in the classroom or workplace31. They expect a continualflow of new and exciting products entering the marketplace. This generation is more cautious about newproducts than any generation before it. Although they are loyal to brands, they expect brands to earn theirloyalty. It is estimated that 50% of 18-24 year olds have personal debts totally more than $14,000 inAustralia32. Conventional marketing campaigns are felt to be intrusive and Millenials prefer to get their informationfrom their peers with recommendations from ‘thought leaders’ and follow ‘urban trend setters’. TraditionalTV, radio and leaflet advertising is not effective with Generation Y. Thus marketing campaigns must put
  5. 5. propositions directly to consumers through the means that they use to communicate, i.e., internet, You Tube,Facebook, blogs, etc. Products must reach across to individual personalities and reflect the way they seethemselves. Methods like underground marketing that utilize direct approaches through the consumers ownworld are more effective. Underground marketing uses multi-media approaches with viral advertising (oftenthrough social media) to create a sense of shared meaning and experience through participative activities withtarget consumers33 . The product offered although mass produced can be highly differentiated bringing a senseof uniqueness to the consumer who will identify with his or her ‘one off’ product. Such an example would bethe Toyota Scion which is marketed separately from other Toyota cars and can be highly differenced throughselecting from a wide range of accessories available at the retail outlet34. Other examples of successfulproducts or services that have utilized underground marketing strategies include Harley-Davidson, Red BullEnergy Drink and the US Army recruitment computer game. Table 1. Some comparisons between the generations. Baby Boomers Generation X Generation Y Time Period 1946-1964 1965-1978 1979-1999 Events Their parents experiences Watergate, US hostages in 9/11, The Gulf war, Dot.Com during the depression and Iran, Computers, Reagan era, boom and bust, internet, WWII, the Korean and HIV/AIDS, the women’s mobile phones and SMS and Vietnam wars, Television, movement, the social networking. Nuclear era, Space race, Cold environmental movement war, Civil rights, Rock and and the end of the Cold war. roll, JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King assassinated. Attitudes and A general optimism and Work is a challenge. Work is Work is a means to an end, values satisfaction, feeling of social a contract and obligation, self optimism, social responsibility, work, health reliance, life/work balance, responsibility, ambition, and wellbeing, personal pragmatism, fun. morality, integrity, ethics, growth, personal gratification. self confidence, sociability. Communication Newspapers, written Printed media, TV, radio, Broadcasting, cable and Technologies correspondence, post, time telephone, computer, telex, satellite TV, email, SMS, delays between fax, multimedia and internet. chat and other real time communications, broadcast internet based news, TV, radio, etc. teleconferencing. Motivations Money, promotion, public Time off, meeting one’s own Time off, skills training, recognition, peer recognition goals, recognition from boss, meeting own goals, and desire to be in control. skills training, mentoring and mentoring, work and play work/leisure balance. intermixed and being valued. Working style Workaholics, working Self reliant, want structure Like short time spans, efficiently according to the and direction, skeptical of multitasking goal orientated, ways they know how to work, authority, equality within the entrepreneurial, consensus Work for causes and personal workplace, don’t respect and participative and fulfillment, consensual and authority, very direct in collective action, like to be collegial, team players, like speech, strongly independent, challenged, thrive on change, meetings, good at forming cynical and want proof of in constant electronic relationships and reluctant to concept. communication and always go against peers. want feedback. Problem solving What has worked in the past Develop a list of potential Brainstorming, web search, can be replicated on the scenario/solutions and then peer discussion. current problem and will work discuss each option. in the future. Concerns Stability and retirement Work and leisure/family The problem of the day, balances, whether they are career. appreciated. Not all countries followed the same evolutionary generational path described above. Different histories,events and outlooks affected different countries in various ways. China went through turmoil and upheaval
  6. 6. during the 1940’s and 50’s with the civil war between the KMT and the communists, the Japanese invasion,world war II and the eventual formation of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949. Even after 1949 there waspoverty all over the country as it had to rebuild after all the turmoil. The time 1950 to 1970 was the period ofthe lost generation, first participating in the great leap forward and then the Cultural Revolution. This left ageneration relatively uneducated and indoctrinated with the socialist way of life. It was not until prosperitycame to China after its opening up to World trade in the 1970s that the coastal and city areas started to developand prosper. Children born between the years of 1970-90 are known as the lifestyle generation in China35. They are aproduct of the ‘one-child’ policy and number between 230-260 million. Parents tended to spoil, pamper andspend the majority of their incomes on their children’s education and material wellbeing. They have become tobe known as the little ‘emperors’ and ‘empresses’ in the family36. These children became differentiated andindividualist as opposed to the traditional and socialist orientation of their parents. There is a noticeablegeneration gap between this generation and those before them. They are optimistic but tend to be amoral due tothe absence of religion in China for many years. The lifestyle generation is intensely urban yuppyish. They arefashion conscious but with less brand loyalty and more individuality, wanting to be noticed. They areostentatious consumers and entrepreneurial. Due to the imbalance between males and females in the malesfavor, females are very selective of their future husbands. In terms of management, they are creative, want tobe heard and look towards quick promotions, whilst lacking team spirit37. With succeeding generations in Japan, traditional values are being replaced with modern Japanese values,which have a number of similarities with western values. Japanese today are much more leisure orientated thanthe past generation. They look more for quality of life and are larger consumers than the past generation. Theyfollow fads and fashions and seek outside leisure amusement with computer games, etc. They seek instantgratification and are much more individualistic than the last generation that valued collectivity, conformity andloyalty. However, young Japanese don’t have the same job security as their predecessors and have differentviews on loyalty and trust. In India the boomer generation came after independence and became suspicious of traditional Indianinstitutions and government. Both Generation X and Y in India see economic growth and more prosperity asan opportunity to advance and consequently work hard to find their place within it. The rest of Asia isdeveloping at different rates, the post war generation generally had to struggle. As this development generationsaw independence from colonial rule and became more economically comfortable they gave birth to childrenwho are more exposed to modern technology and global influences. The young generations of Asia now havemany resemblances to Generation Y of the west. Notes and References1 Gordon Gekko was the arch villain or anti-hero of the film Wall Street in 1990 played by Michael Douglas. He would raid company stocks, take them over and break them up for quick profits without regard for the workers of the companies involved.2 One can remember the Reagan-Thatcher era during the 1980s. Reagan’s election promise was for lower taxes and smaller government, i.e., reduce govt. spending reduce taxes, reduce govt. influence over the economy and the use of monetary policy to control inflation. Thatcherism can be explained as the above with conservative values. These policies were emulated in New Zealand through ‘Rogernomics’ and in Australia through ‘economic rationalism’.3 One of the reasons many companies collapsed in the 2009 economic downturn was the shortfall in retirement funds. One of the major responsibilities of the baby boomer children is to provide for their parents old age.4 This can also be seen from the view that baby boomers believe that there is no one to take their place and younger people are not visionary, competent, committed or as well trained as they are. From the Generation X point of view, the boomers are sitting too long at the top of the organization and ignoring new blood and views. (See Kunreuther 2003).5 Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (1992). Generations: The history of America’s future 1584 to 2069, New York, Harper-Perennial, P. 365.6 Asthana, A. and Thorpe V. (2005). Whatever happened to the original Generation X?, The Observer,,00.html, (accessed 16th December 2009).7 Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (1992). “Generations”, P. 119.8 Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation, New York, Vintage Books.
  7. 7. 9 Mason, M, Singleton, A. & Webber, R. (2008). The Spirit Generation of Y: Young People’s Spirituality in a Changing Australia, Mulgrave, Victoria, John Garrett Publishing.10 Bates, M., & Papadopoulos, V. (2008). MyGeneration Electioneering, Sydney, Special Broadcasting Service, (Documentary).11 Lahiff, S., & Hamilton, B. (2008). MyGeneration Age of Avatars, Sydney, Special Broadcasting Service, (Documentary).12 Noveck, J. and Tompson, T. (2007). Poll: Family ties to youth happiness, http//, (accessed 16th December 2009).13 Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (2000). :Millennials rising”, pp. 185-18614 Noveck, J. and Tompson, T. (2007). Poll: Family ties to youth happiness, http//, (accessed 16th December 2009).15 Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (2000). :Millennials rising”, P. 18416 Clydesdale, T., (2007). The first year out: Understanding American teens after high school, Chicago, Il., The University of Chicago Press, P. 3..17 Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (2000). :Millennials rising”, pp. 182-18318 Kadison, R. D. and DiGeronimo, T. F. (2004). College of the overwhelmed: The campus mental health crisis and what to do about it, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, Robbins, A. (2006). The overachievers: The secret lives of driven kids, New York, Hyperion, Twenge, J. M. (2006). Generation me: Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled _ and more miserable than ever before, New York, Free Press.19 Alsop, R. (2008). The trophy kids grew up: How the millennial generation is shaking up the workplace, New York, Jossey-Bass.20 Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you: How today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter, New York, Riverhead Books.21 Some companies hire groups of friends to keep social networks together (see Tohmatsu 2006). Wilson and Gerber (2008) found that students performed better when they had input into the design of the assessment, assignment types and grading systems within the class.22 Twenge, J. M. (2006). “Generation me”, pp. 27-28.23 Holliday, W. & Li, Q. (2004). Understanding the Millennials: Updating Our Knowledge About Students, Reference Services Review, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 356-366.24 Lucan, B.C.(2008). MyGeneration Y God, Sydney, Special Broadcasting Service, (Documentary).25 Lowry, A. (2009). Europe’s New Lost generation, Foreign Policy, 13th July,, (accessed 14th December 2009).26 Cochran, J. (2007). Generation Y Not Now?, Franchising World, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 91-94.27 Alch, M.L. (2008). Get ready for a new kind of worker in the workplace: the net generation, Supervision, Vol. 69, No. 6, pp. 18-21.28 Cennamo, L. & Gardner, D. (2008). Generational differences in work values, outcomes and person-organization values fit, Journal of Management Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 8, pp. 891-906.29 Cochran, J. (2007). Generation Y Not Now?, Franchising World, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 91-94.30 Audet, J., Gasse, C., Gasse, Y., & Tremblay, M. (2009). Aspiring Entrepreneurs: The Case of Generation Y, Papers and Proceedings of the Southern Academy of Entrepreneurship 2009 Annual Conference, Southern Journal of Entrepreneurship, pp. 5-19.31 Sweeny, R. (2006). Millennial behaviors and demographics, Millennials-Behaviors.doc, (accessed 15th December 2009).32 Arthur, B. (2008). MyGeneration Y21, Sydney, Special Broadcasting Service, (Documentary).33 Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you: How today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter, New York, Riverhead Books.34 Jones, R. (2007). Can Toyota’s Scion Keep its Edge?: Brand aimed at famously fickle Generation Y buyers, msnbc, 21st March,, (accessed 17th December 2009).35 Stanat (2006) classifies those born between 1980-89 as the after-eighty generation, especially those born along the coastal areas of China. According to Stanat this generation is not dissimilar to generation Y in the west.36 Lasserre, P. and Schutte, H. (2006). Strategies for Asia Pacific: Meeting new challenges, 3rd Edition, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York, Palmgrave MacMillan, P. 75.37 Demoor, P., & Zhang, W. (2007). China’s Y Generation, Orion Journal of International Hotel Management, No. 2, pp. 15-19.