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Bridging the Generation Gap in Egypt and the American Workplace | Business

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Bridging the Generation Gap in Egypt and the American Workplace

The historical transfer of power in Egypt has seen the departure of an entrenched 82-year-old dictator and a movement toward a democratically elected government where young Egyptians will have a major voice in politics and policies of the future.  A major key to a successful transition that will allow Egypt to move forward as a stable, innovative nation lies in respect and understanding between generations.

The same is true with American businesses.

Innovation is the intersection of the past and present that leads to the future.  That’s why it is so important that business leaders publicly acknowledge the contribution of each generation, applaud the unique strengths brought to the table by workers of different ages, and encourage everyone to share their viewpoints as a way to make a strong team even stronger. 

The 21st Century workplace brings together an unprecedented number of chronological generations whose life experience influences behaviors and attitudes...including the ‘carrots’ that motivate them in the workplace.  Some hold tightly to the ‘old ways’ while others eagerly anticipate the future. 

  • Traditionalists – born from 1922-1946.   The Great Depression and WWII shaped the thinking of this generation.  They have been influenced by the experiences of their parents...whose values go back to the 19th Century.  Traditionalists prioritize privacy, hard work, and formality, in both attire and organizational structures. They have a great deal of respect for authority and preserving the existing ‘social order.’

 

  • Baby Boomers - born from 1946-1964.  Civil Rights, Woodstock, and the Beatles created the ‘Me Generation.’  Sometimes considered self-centered and egotistical, Boomers are committed to personal achievement.  They were ‘born’ to climb the ladder of success, eager to replace command and control style of their Traditionalist predecessors with a team-oriented approach to doing business.

 

  • Generation X’-ers - born from 1965-1980.   The ‘defining moments’ for this generation include The Gulf War, Atari, and Nintendo.  Unlike their predecessors, they do not rely on institutions for their long-term security and do not value loyalty.  And while they are hard-working, This generation works hard, but they would rather find quicker more efficient ways of working so that they have time for fun. While Boomers are working hard to move up the ladder, Xers are working hard so that they can have more time to balance work and life responsibilities.

 

  • Millennials (also called Generation Y’-ers) - born from 1981-2000.  Gen Y’ers are highly technical and part of an ‘information now’ culture.  They never known a world without speed dial, ATMs, and high speed Internet access.  The ‘defining moments’ for this generation include the Internet and social networking.  They value speed and autonomy.

Because they may be unaccustomed to new strategies for problem-solving and uncomfortable with their lack of knowledge regarding technology and the Internet, Traditionalist and Baby Boomers may label the progressive thinking and ground-breaking ideas that their younger employees offer as ‘impulsive’ or ‘too risky.’  By the same token, the Gen X and Gen Y workers may dismiss the input of older employees as ‘out of touch’ or ‘rigid.’

Leaders in business and international politics must first understand and then celebrate generational differences.  Creating organizational methodologies to engage people by tapping into their unique generational needs and style will enable corporate America (and the people of Egypt) to make the most of their ‘human capital.

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