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Build Your Career Office Life

Is There a Generational Divide in Your Office?

Is There a Generational Divide in Your Office? Credit: Older and younger worker image via Shutterstock

Generational divides in the workplace are more evident than ever as Gen Y and baby boomers find themselves working together in a variety of new arrangements.

According to a new study by CareerBuilder, one-third of U.S. employees work for someone who is younger than them, with 15 percent taking orders from a boss who is at least 10 years their junior.

"Age disparities in the office are perhaps more diverse now than they've ever been," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "It's not uncommon to see 30-year-olds managing 50-year-olds or 65-year-olds mentoring 22-year-olds."

Although the study showed most workers don't find it difficult to work for a younger boss, the research uncovered generational differences around the office in work styles, communication and expectations.

While a majority of employees between the ages of 25 and 34 and those 55 and older expressed a preference for face-to-face communication, the survey shows evidence of a small digital divide. Thirty-five percent of younger employees prefer to communicate via email and text, compared with just 28 percent of those older than 55, who would rather use the phone.

The study found that younger workers tend to view a career path with a "seize any opportunity" mindset, while older workers are more likely to place value in loyalty and putting in the years before advancement. More than 60 percent of workers older than 55 think employees should stay in a job for at least three years, while 47 percent of those under age 35 think it's time to move on as soon as they learn enough in their job to move ahead.

Younger workers also expect to be rewarded more often for their efforts. More than 60 percent of the surveyed younger employees feel they should be promoted every two to three years if they’re doing a good job. Only 40 percent of older employees share that mindset.

The research shows that while employees under 35 are more likely to log shorter hours in the office than their older peers, they also are more likely to take work home with them and be open to a flexible work schedule. According to the study, 69 percent of younger employees work after hours, compared with 60 percent of workers over 55.

"While the tenants of successful management are consistent across generations, there are subtle differences in work habits and views that all workers must empathize with when working with or managing someone who's much different in age," Haefner said.

Lunch is one area where older and younger workers see eye to eye. Approximately 60 percent of both groups prefer eating alone during lunch hour, as opposed to dining with their co-workers.    

The research was based on surveys of more than 3,800 full-time workers and more than 2,200 hiring managers across a variety of industries.

Follow Chad Brooks on Twitter @cbrooks76 or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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