ORLANDO, Fla. — A numbers problem exists in the United States,
according to Bruce Tulgan, author and expert on the generational gap in the
workforce, and due to the “higher-maintenance” younger generations,
managing people is getting harder to do.
Currently, there are four generations of people working side by side in
the nation’s workforce. Tulgan said those born before the year 1946,
account for 6% of the workforce. The baby boomers, those born between 1946 and
1964, make up the nation’s highest percentage of workers at 41%. Those
born between 1965 and 1977, also known as Generation X, account for 29% and
those born after 1978, often called Generation Y, make up 25% of the workforce.
This overlap highlights the fundamental differences in how the different
generations approach their jobs on a day to day basis and how they envision
their career paths in the future.
“Based on 17 years of in-depth research in the workplace, my number
one finding is that it is getting harder to manage people,” Tulgan said at
the 2010 American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association National Assembly, here.
“Why is it harder? Two reasons. The workplace is under more pressure and
the workforce is higher maintenance.”
Tulgan believes that the workforce has become high maintenance because
young upstart employees, Generation Y, do not trust the system in the long
term. It is no longer what you have accomplished that matters, the question has
become what can you do, according to Tulgan. But because this is all they know,
Generation Y has adapted. They have supreme confidence and feel as if they are
more valuable. Older generations want them to slow down, according to Tulgan.
“The young workers were supposed to climb the ladder like the
previous generation,” Tulgan said here. “They were supposed to wait
for the system to take care of them in the long run.”
Tulgan said he has been in the board rooms of major corporations and
found that their number one goal is no secret — preserving profit. In
order to preserve profit, managers must make their teams work longer, harder,
faster, smarter and better, according to Tulgan. The problem with this is the
older generations are slowly exiting the workforce, taking away years of
experience and knowledge.
“The younger generation only plans to build themselves up, using
your resources,” Tulgan said.
What is a mid-manager supposed to do?
“Mid-managers have become stuck in the middle between pressures
from bosses and from their employees,” Tulgan said here. “There is an
upper-management epidemic. A mid-level leadership gap.”
Tulgan said that Generation Y’s high maintenance is a result of the
nation’s gradual change in parenting, teaching and counseling.
“Generation Y is over-supervised and higher maintenance, but they
also have higher expectations,” he said. “They want to hit the ground
running. They want to make an impact fast: as in day one. Generation Y has this
damning myth that they need fun in order to work. Not so. They want to be taken
There are four generations in today’s workplace. They all represent
the O&P community in the patient care facilities or in some other way. It
is extremely important for businesses today to ask themselves, do we know how
to deal with these changing times? Do we know how to handle these changing
generations? I can tell you at Scheck and Siress in Chicago, we do not have all
the answers to these questions.
— James Kaiser, CP
President of AOPA and
chief executive officer of Scheck & Siress