NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Generation Gap in How Workers Perceive Their Jobs

April 7, 2000

In workplaces of all types, new technologies and new ways of organizing work are creating divides between older, long-time employees and younger new hires, personnel experts report. The differing attitudes toward their jobs can create friction on shop floors and headaches for management.

Here are a few examples:

  • The young are more casual toward work -- but they also tend to be less resistant to new training -- than their older counterparts, who opted for factory work because they didn't care much for school when they were young.
  • Younger workers favor 12-hour shifts and more days off to pursue pleasurable pursuits, while older workers prefer to stick with traditional 8-hour shifts and standard weekly schedules -- often, younger workers complain, because work is their life.
  • Some younger workers learn how to handle new technical equipment and fail to share their expertise with older workers -- because if they are called in at odd hours they earn six hours' pay under union rules, even if the fix takes only five minutes.
  • However, if new technological developments threaten their jobs, both young and old react with a somewhat nonchalant attitude -- the young viewing their jobs as temporary and their elders being comparatively unconcerned because they are nearing retirement.

In the latter case, those in the middle -- who have built up some seniority but are still far from retirement -- are the ones who are nervous.

Source: Timothy Aeppel, "Young and Old See Technology Sparking Friction on Shop Floor," Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2000.


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