What Generation is Your Organizational Culture?

This was an insight that I was able to articulate at my recent generational diversity training. As I was going over the four generations in the workplace, I found myself almost feeling a bit guilty about talking too much about the Silent Generation (the oldest in the workforce). The YOUNGEST Silents are in their late sixties, so as you might imagine this is a very small–and shrinking part of the workforce. So I wondered if I should just start skipping over it and talking about the three dominant generations in the workplace: Boomers, Xers, and Millennials.

But I realized that in describing the Silents (favoring command and control, longing for security, hesitant to change), I realized I was describing a lot of organizational cultures. Most of us, in fact, work in organizations that were founded, organized, or at least strongly influenced by the Silent Generation, even though very few Silents still work there. And it seems that organizational cultures will change more slowly than the generations evolve among employees.

So sometimes when a Millennial is bristling against the way things are done, they are not actually combating the Boomer or Xer managers at the organization–they are fighting against a Silent Generation culture that, despite the generational differences, is defended by Boomers and Xers who have simply "always done it that way."

Don't take this notion too far–there aren't really distinct "generations" of organizational culture. But it's important to realize that cultures don't always reflect (entirely) the values of the people who occupy the top spots.