X, Y, Z, or In Between

X, Y, Z, or In Between

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published September 2023

Photo by iStockphoto.com/Alessandro Biascioli

The two are enjoying Memorial Day at the pool. They’ve settled on the topic of work. Mikey’s dad comments to Tyler’s granddad about having the day off. Mikey’s dad says, “I told my boss I couldn’t work today, and I already had plans. What about you?” Tyler’s granddad said somehow he still had his job even though his company downsized. He has to work more with less staff. At his age, he’s too old to find another job. A day off was a surprise. 

     Ned is the owner of a management company that serves several condo hotels. He’s having a conversation with a housekeeper who didn’t show up for work but returned a week later for her paycheck. She is demanding, “You WILL give me my paycheck NOW. The labor relations lady said you would give it to me TODAY! And my attorney says we’ll sue you if you don’t.” Ned calmly says, “I’m not sure who told you that, but your paycheck won’t be available for another week.” He adds, “But you won’t get it then unless you turn in your apron.” He continues, “Since you’ve already contacted your attorney, I’m not supposed to talk to you. So here is the name of mine; we’ll just let our attorneys work it out.”

     A young lady is applying for the member services position at a large homeowners’ association in Palm Beach. This is an upscale property where staff dress in a “uniform” during season—navy blazer, tan pants or skirt, closed-toe shoes, etc. Her resume is good with excellent references, and she is here for her in-person interview. But there is an irreconcilable difference between the person described on the application and the applicant sitting in front of you. What you see is a young lady with sleek black hair pulled back in an unstructured knot with long bangs hanging in her eyes, heavy black eyeliner and mascara, and spaghetti-thin straps on her tight, black, metallic tank top that falls short of the top of her pants. Her capri spandex jeans reveal too much skin when she sits and the top of a tattoo on her backside. Her high-heeled sandals show off black toenail polish. Her fingers are decorated with silver rings that match the multiple pendant necklaces around her neck and which also, you now realize for the first time, match her tongue ring.

     These scenarios represent some generational challenges to the present-day manager. Employees’ manuals that customarily included traditional topics such as responsibilities and duties, compensation and benefits, disciplinary guidelines, termination procedures, holidays, and paid time off now include incentives, manners, professionalism, customer/resident service, dress, personal hygiene, tattoos, hair color and cuts, and body piercings.

     In some offices, there could be four or five generations of people working together.  

  • The Greatest Generation was born between 1901 and 1924 (no longer in the work force).
  • The Builders (The Silent Generation) were born between 1927 and 1945.
  • The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
  • Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980.
  • Xennials (Tweeners) were born between 1977 and 1983.
  • Generation Y (Millennials) was born between 1981 and 1996.
  • Generation Z was born between 1997 and 2010.

     To say that younger generation employees think, work, and dress differently than the Boomers is an understatement. But perhaps the most challenging thing for a manager is the difference in their attitudes toward authority.

  • The Greatest Generation established the authority system.
  • The Builders submitted to that authority system.
  • The Baby Boomers rebelled against that authority system.
  • Generation X ignored that authority system.
  • Generation Y thinks they are the authority system.
  • Generation Z believes authority and respect are reciprocal and proportional.

     Going back to the Industrial Revolution (late 1800s to early 1900s), the Greatest Generation helped America make the shift from a predominantly agricultural society to a manufacturing one. With manufacturing becoming the focus, retail businesses were necessary to sell products. Retail businesses needed white-collar workers for management and sales. The Greatest Genera-tion took the work ethic of the farm into the factory and the office. Work hard, go the extra mile, follow the Golden Rule, and be loyal to your family, employer, church, and government. Their role models were their parents, the families at church, and the characters in classical literature. This traditional work ethic is what the Builders were taught.

     The Builder employees also worked hard, went the extra mile, and followed the Golden Rule. They submitted to authority and earned the 30-year employee pin and a pension. In their youth, radio and motion pictures became popular. The news was about the war. Role models were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill. 

     The Baby Boomer employees grew up rebelling against authority. Remember the 60s? Starting on college campuses, everything was challenged with war protests and the hippie movement’s emphasis on drugs, sex, and women’s rights. With television becoming a popular addition to the home, the Baby Boomer’s world became bigger. Work and marriage were still mostly traditional as represented on television programs like Leave It to Beaver and Lassie, but television introduced single parenting with My Three Sons and Bonanza, Elvis’s pelvic gyrations shown from the waist up, and the Beatles and the British invasion courtesy of Ed Sullivan.

     The Generation X employees will ignore your authority. Their parents used the Dr. Spock theories on child rearing, which said to be your child’s friend and give them freedom of expression. Both parents worked, so after-school activities expanded for these latchkey kids. The world of Gen X was much faster paced. They can multitask, believe strongly in a work-life balance, and are not interested in working 20 years in the same company or industry. Many have already had multiple jobs in diverse industries. Role models are Nintendo games, Laverne & Shirley, The Jeffersons, Kurt Cobain, Prince, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, and Justin Timberlake. 

     Generation Y (Millennials) employees believe there is more to life than work. Growing up with technology, they find shortcuts to achieve a task. They want flexible work schedules and a pleasant and positive work culture. To them, age does not equal seniority,  experience does not equal higher pay, and privileges are not predicated upon responsibility. They want it now and believe they ARE the authority. They will be the future business owners and the children taking care of the Baby Boomers who are still alive in the nursing homes!

     Xennials (Tweeners) share characteristics of both Gen X and Gen Y. They are a microgeneration that grew up with computers, rotary phones, and dial-up internet and started using cellphones in college.

     Don’t be left behind, frustrated, or angered by the generational shift in the workplace. There is a lot of multi-generational employee information available to a wise manager who wants to understand.

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

Owner, Florida CAM Schools

     Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999 Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at www.youtube.com/c/cammatters. For more information, contact Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, call 352-326-8365, or visit www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.