CHICAGO (MainStreet) -- Retirement ain't what it used to be. With 401(K) balances shrinking and the buying power of Social Security payments headed downward, more and more older employees are putting off their goodbye parties and staying on at work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 55-64 are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce. By the year 2014, nearly one-third of workers will be 50 or older. These experienced employees can help a small business run more efficiently, but eventually new blood and new ideas are critical to future success.
So what happens when people who have been with your company for decades have to start working with hires who could be their grandchildren? Especially when those newcomers have very different expectations for their careers? Different communication styles can rapidly turn a minor disagreement into a major conflict.
To avoid such clashes, anyone running a small business should have a basic grasp of key generational differences when it comes to work. The baby boomers (born 1945-64) often feel their job is central to their identity and self-esteem. They prefer to work for managers who take a team approach and like working in groups to define a mission.
Workers who are part of Generation X (born 1965-80) tend to be self-reliant and focus on results rather than process. They came of age in the days of open-plan offices and casual dress, and they expect flexibility in their schedule.
Generation Y, or Millennials (born after 1980), want to feel they are making a difference in the world and their workplace. They have very high expectations and are easily frustrated by managers who aren't open to their contributions.
Bobbie Little, director of worldwide coaching for the talent-management and consulting company PDI Ninth House, uses a few quick taglines to sum up the attitude of each generation. "The motto of the baby boomers is 'I did it my way,'" she says. "Many of them have defined themselves through their work, but now they're under a lot of financial pressure, with their retirement savings shrinking and their kids returning to live at home."