Project Management

Workplace Ethics in a Multi-Generational Workforce

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Categories: Generational PM


Economic and social conditions have led us into an age where workers are extending the length of their careers. For the first time in history, three generations —Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — are together in the workforce.  The generations tend to differ in values, styles and work ethic.  

Baby Boomers, the most experienced workers, can easily feel a cultural disconnect with members of Gen X and Gen Y, especially in the ethical approach to work-life balance.

While many Boomers believe in working long hours, both Gen X and Gen Y believe they can accomplish the same task in less time through the smarter use of technology. This generational difference can result in misunderstandings.

Consider this example:

Julie Phillips, a Baby Boomer, is the project manager and sets a team meeting at 5:00 PM on Monday. She feels the meeting is needed to prepare for a briefing with the executive sponsor that will occur the next day. 

Her team member, John, a Gen X’er, leaves early without informing her to attend his son’s soccer match. Kevin, a Gen Y’er, leaves at 5:00 to volunteer at his favorite charity.

Jane sends an email to John and Kevin indicating a lack of dedication and poor professional conduct, noting that the behavior is costing the project and the company.

What should be done to avoid such conflicts? How does work ethic play a role?  What would you do in this situation?

Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, writing in Harvard Business Review, finds that the impact of demographics on hiring pools is undeniable. (“21st Century Talent Spotting," 2014.)   As Boomers retire, organizations must support the rising leadership of Gen X and the increasing population of Gen Y in the workforce. (“4 Ways to Retain Gen Xers,”HBR Blog, 2014.)  Millennials will represent 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. (“Deloitte Millennial Survey,2014)   

To reduce the potential for clashes, organizations must establish and communicate their ethical values and standards of conduct.  A strong ethical tone starts at the top.  Organizations should define expectations for professional conduct that meet business goals and respect generational differences in values and approach.

To get optimal performance from the entire workforce, a cross-generational dialogue is useful. Dialogue as a tool can uncover inter-generational dynamics that may be affecting your company’s environment and build the bridges of communication.

For project management professionals, the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and the PMI Ethical Decision Making Framework are available to guide ethical behavior and address any ethical dilemma irrespective of the situation or the generation.

Sources Cited

Claudio Fernandez-Araoz. "21st Century Talent Spotting.” Harvard Business Review,  June 2014. >.

Deloitte Millennial Survey. Rep. Deloitte Touche Tomatsu, 2014. Web. Sept. 2014.

Hewlett, Sylvia Ann. "4 Ways to Retain Gen Xers." Web log post. Harvard Business Review. HBR Blog Network, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. .

 

Voices on Project Management Guest Blogger Shobhna Raghupathy MS, PMP is a member of PMI Ethics Member Advisory Group. She has more than 20 years of strategy and portfolio management consulting experience in telecom, healthcare and finance. A longtime volunteer leader of PMI, she is a recognized speaker at PMI® Global Congress and Leadership Institute Meetings. She is also a requested presenter at PMI chapter professional development days and symposia. Currently, she is an invited member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council.

Posted by Shobhna Raghupathy on: November 17, 2014 10:32 AM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Great information, worth review. It means a lot to make sure companies and public sector organisations address the generation gaps and adjust accordingly. When it comes to the p3m workforce, we have to take the time to appreciate this.

nice and interesting article, many thanks

Good article. Thanks

Nice job and informative. Thanks for sharing.

We are all exposed to the same risks and repercussions at work, but we do not all see them through the same ethical lens. No matter how people from different generations see the world around them, everyone is held to the same standards, rules, and regulations.



A very good post. Thank you !

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