MARCH, 2001




A Presentation by Robert Mosier, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point:  Presentation  at UW-Oshkosh, March, 2001






§          Veterans and those born during the war years (the Civic Generation and the Silent Generation)  faced rich opportunities until the 1980s with the increasing competition from Japanese productivity.

§          Baby Boomers had many career choices, with an emphasis on life, work, and team as interchangeable terms.

§          Generation Xers are the most highly educated, technologically savvy cohort group to enter the workplace in significant numbers.  However, they exist in a workforce of limited upward mobility that none of the preceding generations can comprehend.

§          Generation Xers feel the need to be flexible and spontaneous with opportunities, since the economy and job market have experienced such rapid changes. This has presented challenges with more limited career opportunities, with the exception of the areas of technology

§          Millennials are now entering college as the arrival of the  latest generation.  They see their future as unlimited opportunities, with an emphasis on team work, a common sense of purpose, and trust in the group.  They have experienced a positive economy  while moving through their school years.


Generations are shaped by common experiences, defining moments, history, demographics, economics, and culture.



The Millennials came of age in the 1990s when the technology revolution was expanding; the oldest are now beginning to enter college.  They are characterized by: support and protection from parents; optimistic; civic minded; barriers of time and space appear to be less absolute for them (i.e. emailing internet pen pals in Asia); "good scouts"; willing to work and learn; and are recycling back to the Veterans and the Civic Generation.


Millennials’ Generational Personality: 

Seven Distinguishing Traits: from Strauss and Howe, Millennials Rising

§          Special: feeling of being vital to the nation and to their parents’ sense of purpose

§          Sheltered: kid safety rules, lockdown of public schools, sweeping national youth safety movement

§          Confident: high levels of trust and optimism

§          Team Oriented: classroom emphasis on group learning, school uniforms, tighter peer bonds

§          Achieving: accountability and higher school standards

§          Pressured: pressure to excel in many different areas

§          Conventional: social rules can help; comfortable with parents’ values

Direct Reversal of Boomer Trends

§          More relaxed style of child-rearing with the Boomers

§          Boomers placed more emphasis on individualism and inner creativity

§          Boomers loosened child standards


Characteristics: from Zemke, Raines, and Filipczak, Generations at Work

§             Technological sophistication:  can process large amounts of visual information; advanced motor, spatial, and strategy skills via game technology

§             Positive expectations

§             Apparent bent for collective action

§             Emphasis on civic duty

§             Confidence

§          Achievement oriented

§          Sociability

§          Morality

§          Street smarts: knowledge about the dangers of gangs, guns, aids, anorexia, etc.

§          Diversity

§          "Soccer moms" as involved parents

§          Feel more comfortable with style of the Veterans, not the Gen Xers or the Boomers

§          Look like a modern, new version of grandparents and great-grandparents: belief in collective action; optimism about the future; trust in centralized authority; a will to get things done; and a heroic spirit in the face of overwhelming odds

§          Have a stricter moral code/center

§          Sacrifice personal pleasure for the greater common good


Millennials’ Current Core Values

§          Optimism

§          Civic Duty

§          Confidence

§          Achievement

§          Sociability

§          Morality

§          Street Smarts

§          Diversity


Millennials’ Pace of Life

§          “America’s upwardly mobile, ultra-goal-oriented mindset has made teens feel more stressed than previous generations”.  The New York Times

§          “At the start of my freshman year at the Madeira School, the dean of students told everybody that there supposedly was a difference between stress and pressure- that stress was bad and pressure good.  He said that our school only causes pressure, not stress, which became the joke for the entire student body.”  Isabeau Strauss, 17

§          “There’s a lot of pressure on school administrators to increase standardized test scores, but how productive are we when we don’t make time for essential human functions like eating?  It’s not healthy.  You don’t need a CDC scientist to tell you that.”  Howell Wechsler, Centers for Disease Control

§          “You mostly stuff food in your mouth and go.”  Ann Luu, 15, describing the high school “lunch crunch”

§          “Don’t think life is easy, because when you get older, it is hard work. I used to think life was easy.  Now I have to do the dishes every day.  Nick  Coleman, 9


Millennials’ Community Emphasis

§          “We work together, probably a lot more than adults do.”  Lauren, 16

§          “Schools have started programs to make freshmen feel more connected, as opposed to simply bewildered.”  Abraham McLaughlin

§          “I think the thing that makes up a good community is having unity and working together.  The bad thing is not working together, working against each other.  That’s not gonna make any kind of progress.”  Julia Dotson, 13

§          “We do good things for the community; such as: picking up litter, tutoring younger children, collecting donations for children’s shelters, bake sales, entertaining for community events, helping at animal shelters, making cards for the sick, planting flowers, and so much more.”  Lauren Lucas, 17, describing Kids, A.C.T., a group she formed in 1993 when she was 11 years old


Millennials’ Focus on Conduct

§          Teen sex appears to have peaked around 1990, crime and school violence in 1993, and teen homicides in 1994

§          Millennials are becoming a corrective generation

§          Focus on Zero Tolerance: “Do you support Zero Tolerance in High Schools?” Yes: 69%   No: 26%   Survey of all ages, Harris/Ecite poll (November 12, 1999)

§          “The country is witnessing a vast increase in detentions, suspensions, and even expulsions.”  The New York Times

§          Emphasis on “policing the little things”; schools are cracking down on classroom manners and vulgarity

§          Strong responses to sexual harassment

§          Between 1993 and 1999, the share of Oregon teens who would advise a classmate to wait until they are older or married to have sex rose from 61 percent to 73 percent.  Oregon Youth Risk Behavior Survey

§          “Today there are about 650 youth courts nationwide, vs. just 50 in 1991.  They handle mostly nonviolent first-time defendants.  Record of Bronx Youth Court in past two years: 68 convictions,
2 acquittals.”  U.S. Department of Justice


Millennials’ Heroes

§          Michael Jordan

§          Princess Diana

§          Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa

§          Mother Teresa

§          Bill Gates

§          Kerri Strugg

§          Mia Hamm

§          Tiger Woods

§          Christopher Reeves


Seminal Events and Trends for Millennials

§          Child focus

§          Violence: Oklahoma City bombings, school yard shootings

§          Technology

§          Busy, overplanned lives

§          Stress

§          Clinton/Lewinsky


Millennials on the Job:  Assets

§          Collective action

§          Optimism

§          Tenacity

§          Heroic spirit

§          Multi-tasking capabilities

§          Technological savvy

Millennials on the Job:  Liabilities

§          Need for supervision and structure

§          Inexperience, particularly with handling difficult people issues

§          Howe and Strauss predict Millennials will demand  pay equity among all workers; will create fewer job definitions; reestablish  the middle class; downgrade exorbitant CEO and executive salaries; create trade barriers;  create more government regulations about labor standards; and will revitalize labor unions.


The Millennials: Messages that Motivate

§          "You'll be working with other bright, creative people"

§          "You and your co-workers can have a large impact on our work"

§          "You can be a hero here"


Working with Millennials

§          Budget plenty of time for orientation

§          Create a clear picture of your work environment

§          Learn about the  individual’s goals

§          Interweave these goals with job performance and expectations

§          Appoint strong team leaders

§          Look for potential conflict between Millennials and Gen Xers when working side by side

§          Focus on training: Millennials want to continue their education and development of work skills

§          Establish mentor programs



Source: Strauss and Howe (2000).  Millennials RIsing.  New York: Vintage Books.


The Millennial Generation will:

§          Rise swiftly in pop-culture influence

§          Narrow the gap between their tastes and what older culture providers market to them

§          Emerge as stars in music, film, and sports (a team oriented athlete in pro sports and clean-cut star in entertainment

§          Bring more melodic content to music

§          Influence sitcoms to be more melodramatic and wholesome

§          Blend the high tech with the traditional in film and theater

§          Please some with these trends, but others will be critical of its perceived blandness

§          Bring new activity, change, new pressures, and new arguments to colleges and universities

§          Compete for a fixed number of desirable slots for admission to college

§          Influence elite colleges and universities to become more selective; influence a rise in prestige at second tier schools and top caliber state schools

§          Influence the rise of single- gender  and sectarian schools

§          Cause a rise in SAT scores

§          If rejected at schools, complain about the perceived unfairness in admissions, along with their parents

§          Influence affirmative action offices to pay less attention to race and more attention to socioeconomic backgrounds

§          Increasingly view colleges and entry level jobs as societal sorting mechanisms,  through which young adults will learn where they stand in relation to their peers

§          Influence an upswing in school  spirit and quality of college life; this will be fueled by Boomer parents that refuse to let go

§             Make joint decisions with parents about college choices

§             Expect colleges to provide the complete traditional collegiate experience, from ivy-covered halls to pep rallies to classic subjects

§             Support parents and the media prodding college administrators to toughen on-campus security and rules of student conduct

§             Influence the scaling back of  freshman  remedial classes, by the end of the decade

§             Raise issues about grades, honor codes, internet behavior, and cheating

§          Influence the decline of older Boomer-era campus causes, to be replaced by others of more urgency to the Millennial life experience

§          Witness the increasing rise of women  on campus, as leaders, winners of academic honors, and graduate admissions

§          Witness the increasing discomfort of men on campus, with greater numbers of male dropouts, and increasing criticism of gender-studies programs

§          Be influenced by increasing discussions on how to bring  males back into higher education

§          Focus on seeking common ground for a more multiethnic student body, as opposed to separatism of groups

§          Urge  the melding of ethnic-studies programs into more traditional  academic fields

§          Focus on class (and money)  as points of political argument that will occur,  rather than gender or race

§          Date more across racial and ethnic lines and less across class lines

§          Show a marked improvement in achievement and behavior

§          Experience academic competition as more intense and professionalized (more private tutors and precollege counselors)

§          Experience academics as more rigorous and less fun

§          Experience a decrease in substance abuse (but tobacco and marijuana use could go either way)

§          Influence the use of tobacco use and marijuana use for decades in either direction

§          Redomesticate the dating-and-mating process (manners, modesty, and gender courtesies will prevail)

§          Reverse the trend toward later marriage and childbirth

§          Influence the American workplace to be less nomadic, and more cooperative, standard, and loyal

§          Be attracted to solid companies with career ladders and standardized pay and benefits and less attracted to consulting, contracting, temping, freelancing, and new business startups

§          See women dominate medical, legal, and media positions,  while men will dominate business and technology

§          Emerge as a new powerhouse in politics,  emphasizing activism and determination

§          Make the internet less chaotic, more reliable, and less dangerous for the younger members of their generation

§          Develop groupware, community networks, cooperative games, and web devices that credential, simplify, segment, and screen the internet

§          Join with other internet activists to marshal global peers on political, economic, military, and environmental issues of common concern




§          What are the implications for working with our staff/ student leaders?

§          What type of leadership/supervision are they looking for?

§          What types of things are they most likely to challenge? support?

§          How can you be most successful as a leader/supervisor based on these generational characteristics?

§          How do you best prepare for the transition between Gen Xers and the Millennials?





THE VETERANS (1922-1943)

The Veterans Generation came of age before, during, and right after WWII, and before the arrival of the Baby Boomers.  They are characterized by All-American values, civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, being true traditionalists, "keepers of the grail" of yesteryear, a pain at times to the action-oriented Boomers and the technology-crazy Xers, good "soldiers", solid performers, Gray Panthers (own billions of dollars in real estate in the Sun Belt, are a  political force through the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and are CEO's of many Fortune 500 companies).


The Veterans' Generational Personality

§          Veterans like consistency and uniformity

§          Veterans like things on a grand scale

§          Veterans are conformers

§          Veterans believe in logic, not magic or art as leaders

§          Veterans are disciplined

§          Veterans are past oriented and history absorbed: they look to the past to find precedents and use data to make choices

§          Veterans have always believed in law and order

§          Veterans spending style is conservative


The Veterans On the Job: Assets

§          Stable

§          Detail oriented

§          Thorough

§          Loyal

§          Hard working

The Veterans On the Job: Liabilities

§          Inept with ambiguity and change

§          Reluctant to buck the system

§          Uncomfortable with conflict

§          Reticent when they disagree

The Veterans' Work Ethic

§          Loyalty, dependability, stick-to-it-ism

§          Work hard to get things accomplished

§          A job is something to have over the long haul

§          Value the team over individualism on the job

§          Duty before pleasure

§          You can't have it all



The Veterans' Leadership Style

§          Directive style

§          Standard operating procedures

§          Command and control leadership

§          Lombardi, Patton, and MacArthur

§          Take charge, delegate, and make the bulk of decisions themselves

§          They enjoy working with large teams; they enjoy baseball and football

§          Use of the personal touch; not as excited about e-mails, voice mail, or faxes


THE BABY BOOMERS (1943-1960)


The Baby Boomers came of age in the 1950s and 1960s with many options and choices, but with the Vietnam War as a major factor.  They are characterized by a passion for participation and spirit in the work-place, bringing heart and humanity to the office, about creating a fair and level playing field for all.  They are the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation.  They have great energy and enthusiasm for causes.  This is the cohort that invented:  "We are grateful that it is Monday, so we can begin the work week".


The Baby Boomers' Generational Personality

§          They believe in growth and expansion

§          They think of themselves as the stars of the show

§          They tend to be optimistic

§          In schools and at home, the Boomers learned about teamwork

§          They have pursued their own personal gratification, uncompromisingly, and often at a high price to themselves and others.

§          They have searched their souls-repeatedly, obsessively, and recreationally

§          The Boomers have always been cool


First Half/Second Half: The Boomer Dichotomy


The Older Boomers: came of age in the 1950s and early 1960s.

§          They tend to be more idealistic

§          They are more likely to be workaholics

§          They are more likely to put their careers first and their family second

§          They were influenced by the anti -Vietnam War movement, the Women's Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and other societal changes

§          They are driven to achieve economic success (the "Yuppies")


The Late Boomers: came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s

§          They feel less driven for material success

§          They make decisions based on the family, rather than the career

§          They see parenting roles as emotional and involving

§          They had experience with downsizing, causing them to feel less gung-ho about management and more cynical

§          They feel that good work habits and positive mental attitudes are not always rewarded

§          They sometimes identify with Generation Xers who cite Dilbert as their cultural hero


Baby Boomers on the Job: Assets

§          Service oriented

§          Driven

§          Willing to "go the extra mile"

§          Good at relationships

§          Want to please

§          Good team players


Baby Boomers on the Job: Liabilities

§          Not naturally "budget minded"

§          Uncomfortable with conflict

§          Reluctant to go against peers

§          May put process ahead of result

§          Overly sensitive to feedback

§          Judgmental of those who see things differently

§          Focused on self

Baby Boomers' Leadership styles

§          Collegial, consensual

§          Concerned about participation and spirit in the workplace, heart and humanity in the office

§          Creating a level playing field, influenced by the civil rights movement

§          Believe in the magic and art of leadership


THE GENERATION Xers (1961-1980):


The Generation Xers came of age in the 1970s and 1980s when the economy was going through difficult changes with the move to a global economy, and the technological revolution.  They are characterized by being the new change masters; masters of technology and its applications; wanting to have balance in their lives; a need for feedback and flexibility; and are generally positive about their futures.


Generation Xers Generational  Personality

§          They are self-reliant

§          They are seeking a sense of family; small group activities, concept of "Friends";  creating nuclear families out of a group of strangers

§          They want balance: reaction to the workaholic Boomers; their parents lived to work; Xers want to work to live

§          They don't buy the Supermom and Superdad theory that you can have it all

§          They have a non-traditional orientation about time and space: they would like to do work at home, during odd hours, use the cell phone, and telecommute.

§          They like informality: casual days are taken very seriously

§          Their approach to authority is casual: formal hierarchical relationships are lost on Gen Xers;

§          "We all put on our Dockers one leg at a time".

§          Are skeptical: they watch to see if words meet actions; they are told "be careful out there, it's a dangerous world".

§          They are attracted to the edge: the "X" games were named in their honor (their sports are related more to individual challenges).

§          They are technologically savvy: played video games, operated the microwave, and programmed the VCR when little.


Gen Xers's Core Values

§          Diversity

§          Thinking globally

§          Balance

§          Technoliteracy

§          Fun

§          Informality

§          Self-reliance

§          Pragmatism


Gen Xers's On the Job: Assets

§          Adaptable

§          Technoliterate

§          Independent

§          Not intimidated by authority

§          Creative

Gen Xers's On the Job: Liabilities

§          Impatient

§          Poor people skills

§          Inexperienced

§          Cynical


Gen Xers: First -Half Generation 
"Please sir, can I have some more?"

§          Came into the marketplace during a severe downturn; downsizing, layoffs, parents having economic difficulties, no stability

§          Everyone needs to watch out for themselves

§          Whole generation of corporate nomads

§          Only ticket is to develop real skills on the job: recent jump in internships in college (10 years ago 3% of college graduates had internships; now closer to 33% had internships)

§          Many college graduates needed to take low paying jobs outside their field, particularly Liberal Arts majors


Gen Xers: The Gold-Collar Workers

§          With the labor shortage reaching a peak in 1997 and the explosion in information technology, a high premium is being placed on people knowledgeable about technology/computers and/or willing to learn

§          The gold-collar workers are college graduates trained in computers

§          They would like to bring pets to work, work odd hours, work fewer hours, and have fun at work

§          They are in the driver's seat with respect to the hiring process, since there are many unfilled technology positions.

§          They know that work is no guarantee of survival, that corporations can downsize at any time


Gen Xers Leadership Style

§          Skilled at supporting and developing a responsive, competent team of people, changing direction or projects on a dime

§          Egalitarian, rather than hierarchical

§          Interest in promoting involvement and participation

§          Leadership is a job, not magic

§          Competent, fair, straightforward leaders

§          Create circles of people into "campus cultures", with recreational opportunities

§          Communication through listserv, email, chat rooms

§          Need to reinforce that some administrative and/or repetitive aspects of jobs are necessary; detail  needs to be paid attention to; and there needs to be checking on the quality of things done

§          Need to provide as much freedom as possible; help to develop a broad range of diverse skills

§          Keep training materials brief

§          Provide constructive feedback

§          Provide multiple tasks


The Gen Xers: Messages that Motivate

§          "Do it your way"

§          "We've got the newest hardware and software"

§          "There aren't a lot of rules here"

§          "We're not very hierarchical"




Zemke, R., Raines, C., and Filipczak, B. (2000), Generations at Work. New York: American Management Association, Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (2000).  Millennials Rising.  New York: Vintage Books, and Strauss, W. and Howe, N. (1997). The Fourth Turning.  New York: Broadway Books