Millennials and the Older Generations Essay


Generation Y or Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996. In most of the recent studies, people born between 1996 and 2000 are also included in that generation. The next one is Generation X, which comprises of people born between 1961 and 1681. People born between 1943 and1960 belong to the generation of the Baby Boomers. Silent Generation is the fourth, comprising of people born between 1925 and 1942 (Calk & Patrick, 2017). Currently, Millennials are the majority in the work force. By 2017, they made up over 50 percent of the workforce. By 2030, their percentage is expected to increase to up to 70 percent. A remarkable aspect of the Millennials is that they express significant differences in their work ethics and expectations from their work and employers from the older generations (Calk & Patrick, 2017). In addition, the factors influencing their job satisfaction and motivation vary from those of the earlier generations. In cases where the needs of the Millennials and the differences and not addressed properly, conflicts are likely to emerge between them and the older generations. Thus, this paper contains a literature review focusing on how the differences in the work ethics, job satisfaction, motivation and expectations between the Millennials and the older generations influence conflicts between them. Also, the paper explores gap in the previous studies focusing on the aforementioned issues Millennials and the Older Generations Essay.

Differences between the Millennials and Earlier Generations

Work Ethics

The previous studies have shown that there is significant difference in the work ethics between the Millennials and the older generations. A Pew Research Center survey (2010) conducted in 2009 found that the millennials do not perceive work ethics as one of the important things that they should express. When making job applications, most millennials do not indicate upholding work ethics as one of their key strengths. In the study, the millennials agreed that older generations uphold work ethics more than them. The generation x and others also indicated that that the millennials have less regard for the work ethics. Also, the millennials consider moral values as having less impact on their work than the older generations. The millennials give priority to the primacy of self-actualization and fulfilment (Pew Research Center, 2010). The millennials are also less likely to show respect for others than the older generations. The difference can lead to workplace conflicts in cases where the older generations feel that the millennials fail to uphold work ethics as expected or required.

The difference in ethics is also expressed in a study conducted by Weber (2017). The study focused on the values orientation by managers belonging to the Generation Y relative to those belonging to Generation X. The researcher found that both the values of the millennials and Generation X managers are influenced by life experiences and nurture. The results derived from the study showed differences in the value orientations by the two generations. The values of the millennials are more influenced by personal factors such as need for self-actualization rather than social factors. They tend to be more focused on the goals to be achieved than the moral values involved relative to the Generation X managers. The Generation X managers emphasize more on character than the Generation Y managers.

However, another study conducted by Weber and Urick (2017) showed that the work ethics are not consistent among all millennials. The researchers gathered data for the study from the previous empirical studies. The results indicated there are statistically significant differences in the work ethics among the millennials. The results indicated that the work ethics vary depending on factors such as gender, academic performances, work experience and business discipline specialization Millennials and the Older Generations Essay.

Another study conducted by Kwong (2016) focused on determining how the work ethics among the millennials is influenced by the perception of the employers. The researcher gathered data from 212 working millennials in Hong Kong. The results indicated that the millennials have unique interpretations of work ethics. However, the results showed that the relationship with the employer influenced ethics, with some showing high regard while others expressed low regard. The millennials employed in the banking sector, for instance, had higher regard for work ethics than those employed in the informal sector. Thus, the results indicated that the kind of work undertaken influences ethics among the millennials.


The expectations of the Millennials and the earlier generations on adornments show significant variations. Tattooing and body piercings are a source of workplace conflicts. The previous studies have shown that on average, the Millennials are more likely to accept, and do, tattooing and body piercings than the earlier generations (Deal, Altman & Rogelberg, 2020). Many Millennials do not feel that tattoos and body piercings should have any impact on their ability to work as expected. They do not feel that there are any impacts on personal and workplace values. However, a higher percentage of the earlier generations dislike tattoos and feel that they might influence the personal values at work. Others feel that the customers and other stakeholders may be uncomfortable dealing with workers with tattoos. As Deal et al. (2010) notes, the perceptions have been influencing some of the employers to reject potential job candidates with high qualifications. At workplace, some employers have found themselves dealing with court cases due to policies they create targeting the employees with tattoos.

Another remarkable difference is that the millennials have a higher expectation of incorporation or adoption of new technologies at the workplace than the older generations. As Deal et al. (2010) explain, acquisition to knowledge on technology is similar to that of learning. Exposure to the technology at an early age leads to a higher probability of learning and understanding it than introduction at older age. The Millennials have grown up during a period in which technological advancement and diffusion in different countries have been high, amidst globalization. A rapid increase in the prevalence and use of computers has occurred during the last three decades. During the same period, mobile phone technology has grown rapidly characterized by establishment of many new phone models with multiple uses. New communication channels, including the social media platforms such as the Facebook and Twitter have also emerged. During the period, on average, the Millennials have adopted and used the new technologies more than the older generations (Deal et al., 2010). The trend has influenced their expectations at the workplace. The Millennials have higher expectations of utilization of the new technologies at the work lace than the older generations.

De Hauw and De Vos (2010) conducted a study to determine how career expectations of the Millennials are influenced by individual, contextual and generational factors. The study was conducted o two different samples. One of the samples comprised of 825 Millennials graduating in 2009. The second sample was made up of 787 Millennials that were set to graduate in 2006. The respondents were asked to fill questionnaires that requested details about their optimism, career strategy and psychological contract expectations in various socioeconomic contexts. The results derived from the study showed that the expectations of the Millennials regarding financial rewards or compensation, career development, training and job content were very high. Despite this, the study showed that their expectations and optimism reduce significantly during the time of recession. According to the study, the expectations may vary depending on the individual factors, such as perception and experiences.

Hershatter and Epstein (2010) conducted an analysis of the previous studies with a focus on the issues faced by organizations, especially the older generation, in accommodating the millennials at work place. The researchers also addressed the issues based on their personal experiences. One of the remarkable issues noted by the researchers is the difference in the adoption and use of the latest technologies. Sometimes, the millennials feel that they are not given enough space and support to apply the new technologies in ways they think would be beneficial. Conflict may occur if the older generations focus on sticking to the old technologies or limit adoption of new technologies Millennials and the Older Generations Essay.


The levels of motivation by the Millennials and the older generations may not vary significantly. However, the sources of motivation usually vary. In some cases, inability by the older generations to understand the factors that motivate the Millennials leads to differences. Generation X and the other older generations especially in the western nations joined their careers during the periods when individual achievement was more valued and rewarded than group or team achievement. As such, most have maintained the tendency to be individualistic (Brack, 2012). Conversely, the millennials are more motivated by team-working and collaboration than the older generations. However, it is essential to note that some of the previous studies have found contradicting results. They have shown that the millennials value individualistic achievements than teamworking (Urick et al., 2017). Despite this, the studies have shown significant differences in sources of motivation by the different generations.

Further, older generations have been used to the traditional approaches to management, such as the command-and-control strategy. They tend to perceive the managers as experts who should only be listened to rather that be questioned. They also give priority to bureaucratic leadership in large organizations. Conversely, such management strategies have little motivation to the millennials. The millennials value developing cooperative relationships with the leaders. They are motivated by participative leadership styles where they can discuss and create solutions together with the leaders. In addition, the millennials derive more motivation from flat management structures than the hierarchical bureaucracies.

Calk and Patrick (2017) conducted a study to determine the factors that influence or affect motivational level among the Millennials. The researchers gathered data for the study from fulltime students at a university located in Southwestern part of the US. The final sample comprised of 341 participants who filled surveys. The questions in the surveys focused on five motivational needs, namely actualization, ego-status, belonging, safety and basic needs. The results derived from the study showed that the millennials are motivated by the desire for belonging and need to fulfill basic needs. In addition, they are motivated by the need for self-actualization through meaningful and challenging work. Remarkably, such sources of motivation do not have similar influences to the older generations.

Job Satisfaction

Most of the factors that influence motivation have an impact on job satisfaction. In the case of Millennials, one of the most important aspect that influences job satisfaction is remuneration. An increase in the remuneration and other financial rewards enhances job satisfaction in the millennials more than in the older generations. Further, the millennials are more satisfied by jobs that provide opportunities for work-life-balance than the older generations. Based on the results of the previous studies, the Millennials are more likely to be satisfied by jobs allowing employees to take time-off occasionally than the jobs that do not. As well, the millennials are more likely to be satisfied by good relationships with the leaders or employers than the older generations. The previous studies have also shown that millennials’ job satisfaction is affected more by the form of leadership than the older generations. The Millennials working in organizations where there is participative leadership express higher satisfaction than those working in organizations with bureaucratic or autocratic leadership. On average, satisfaction levels among the older generations are less affected.

Numerous studies have addressed job satisfaction among the millennials and the ultimate impacts of fulfillment of lack of satisfaction. Buzza (2017) focused on the impact of work life balance among the millennials. As such, Buzza (2017) conducted a study to determine the extent to which different positions and organizations with varying impacts on work-life balance were attractive to the millennials. The researcher conducted the study on 71 female and 95 male college students that were undertaking business courses. The respondents were asked to review the working conditions and requirement of different job positions that had been advertised and select the most attractive to them. The results showed that the millennials expressed high level of attractiveness to the job positions that included conditions that would allow for work-life balance. Despite this, the study did not make a comparison with the earlier generations in order to determine whether there is significant difference in the impact of work-life balance on job satisfaction. Also, the participants recruited in the study did not have workplace experience, which is vital in influencing a person’s job perception.

Further, Hay (2014) conducted a study focusing on determining whether there is significant difference in job satisfaction levels and the influencing factors between the millennials and the older generations Millennials and the Older Generations Essay. The researcher used data that was gathered during a public survey that was conducted in the US in 2013 (Hay, 2014). The results derived from the study showed that there is no significant difference in the levels of job satisfaction between the millennials and the other generations. However, the results showed significant differences in the factors that the millennials and the other generations derived satisfaction from. The millennials valued positive relationship with the supervisors as an influencing factor to motivation more than the other generations (Hay, 2014). In addition, receiving relevant, timely and specific feedback from managers and other leaders through technologies such as phones and social networking sites significantly increased the level of satisfaction among the millennials.

How the differences Influence Conflicts

If not addressed or accommodated, the differences between the Millennials and older generations can escalate into active conflicts. The conflicts are expressed in many ways. One of the ways is the expression of frustrations by either the millennials or the older generations. The expression of frustrations is evident in a study conducted by Urick et al. (2017). The researchers focused on determining the effects of the identity based, behavioral-based and value-based differences between the Millennials and the Generation X on the likelihood of conflict emergence (Urick et al., 2017). During the study, the Millennials expressed frustrations due to limitations by the older generations to use or incorporate the new technologies at workplace by the older generations. Conversely, the Generation X participants stated that they disliked the fact that the Millennials undervalued the traditional work strategies and old technologies.

In addition, the millennials in the study conducted by Urick et al. (2017) expressed frustrations due to the demand by the older generations to follow rules strictly. Conversely, the Generation X participants showed frustrations caused by the millennials that fail to adhere to the laid instructions and rules and instead, do things the way they wish. The study also showed frustrations results from differences in work ethics. The millennials showed frustration with the older generations who they perceived as old fashioned and too retrogressive. Conversely, Generation X felt frustrations by the failure of the millennials to adhere to values that are necessary at work place, such as expressed of respect.

The conflict may also be expressed through reduced performance. When the satisfaction and motivational levels are negatively affected, the employees usually reduce their efforts to work. The millennials are usually the most affected by the conflicts (Irhamahayati et al. 2018). They may respond through reduction in their output levels or the quality of the products and services. Sometimes, the Millennials react through increased rates of absenteeism. Persistence of the intergenerational conflicts is usually expressed through increased employee turnover rates. In some cases, the intergenerational conflict can escalate into protests expressed through strikes (Irhamahayati et al. 2018). For instance, the millennials can protest against strict rules through engaging in strikes. In most cases, however, the issues are reported to the labor unions first and are solved before emergence of strikes.

Gaps in the Previous Studies

Most of the previous studies have made significant focus on the differences between the millennials and older generations. For instance, Kwong (2016) and Weber (2017) and Weber and Urick (2017) have addressed variations in work ethics. Most of the studies have found significant differences in the work ethics between the millennials and the other generations. Regarding sources of job satisfaction, scholars have also given significant attention to the variations between the Millennials and the older generations. Buzza (2017), Hay (2014) and Urick et al. (2017) are examples of the studies that have focused on the topic.

The focus on job expectations by the Millennials relative to the older generations is significant. Examples of the studies in that area are De Hauw and De Vos (2010) and Hershatter and Epstein (2010). In addition, the differences in sources of motivation by the Millennials and the older generations have also been addressed adequately in the previous studies. Calk and Patrick (2017) is an example of the studies that have addressed the topic.

However, there is a significant research gap. In the previous studies, there is a lack of significance focus on the extent to which the differences in work ethics, sources of job satisfaction and motivation and job expectations contribute to the conflicts between the Millennials and the older generations. In addition, the previous studies have not addressed the form the different ways in which the intergenerational conflict is expressed in the organizations. The study conducted by Urick t al. (2017) aimed to fill the gap. However, it only focuses on the frustrations as a way of expression of the conflicts. In this regard, the future studies should aim to fill the gap through increasing their focus on how the conflicts resulting from the differences are expressed Millennials and the Older Generations Essay.

Another issue is the presence of inconsistent and contradictory results in the past studies. A review of the previous empirical studies focusing on the millennials conducted by Deal, Altman and Rogelberg (2010) shows that the studies have found contradictory results. Some of the studies focusing on the attitudes of the millennials have found confusing results. Thus, the future studies should be aimed at addressing the inconsistencies and confusion.


Overall, a review of literature and the previous studies indicates that there are significant differences in the work ethics, sources of job satisfaction and motivation and job expectations between the Millennials and the older generations. If not addressed, the differences lead to notable intergenerational conflicts. Remarkable attention to the differences in given in the previous studies. However, there is a lack of significant focus to the conflicts resulting from the differences, or how the conflicts are expressed. In addition, the previous studies addressing the differences have inconsistences. Some have derived confusing results. In this regard, the future studies should seek to feel the gap through addressing how the conflicts are expressed and solving the inconsistency and confusion issues.


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