In today’s work environment, no employee is exempt from experiencing some level of fear. Yet, not all generations experience the same fears and respond in the same ways.Fear is an emotional response to threats or danger. This response is triggered by different motivations, values, beliefs and experiences. We know that these differences vary across generations and trigger different responses to threats or danger.
So what are those triggers?
We know that Traditionalists (age 64+) have a high need for respect and to be valued for their hard work and perseverance. If they find themselves in a work environment where the rules have changed, their past experience is less relevant. The hard work and dedication of their past is not necessarily part of the new success model. They may no longer feel they “fit.” For the Traditionalist, fear can be triggered by the crumpling of the systems on which they built their past success.
Work harder. This work ethic has worked for them in the past and it’s what they know.
Boomers (ages 45-63) have been motivated by money, titles, promotions, relationships, and loyalty. In today’s economic times, the rug has been pulled out from much of what Boomers have worked for and valued. Not only is their fear triggered by loss of financial stability and status, but they recognize that they aren’t getting any younger.
They turn to past relationships to help them through these changing times. However, they are finding that the key players and influencers have changed. Those who helped them build their careers are not necessarily in charge anymore.
Xer’s (29-44) have been skeptics from the beginning so their reaction to fear today might sound like, “I told you so.” Gen Xer’s have worked for independence and balance. They have been more cautious and conservative with their money than other generations.
Look within themselves for the answers. Gen Xer’s have been brought up in a world of crisis and change starting with unstable home lives and world events such as Challenger and energy crisis. They will count on their own competence and put less confidence in the existing rules and processes.
Fear may be triggered by the lack of structure the Gen Yer (age 14-28) may find in the workplace and lack of efficiency. Gen Yer’s want to get to work and don’t want to waste time on mundane tasks.
It is less about fear and more about impatience. As organizations struggle to find new ways to get work done, Yer’s may just opt out because they can’t find a way to achieve results in this environment.
So as leaders how are you addressing these fears? What can you do to help each generation respond constructively to their fear?
- Wendy Friede