“The magnitude of difference between the newer and older generations in the profession depends on how pronounced are the societal changes from one generation to the next.”1
For the first time in history, 4 generations are working together— traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials. Each generation carries with them a unique perspective of the world based on their shared experiences, and interacts differently with those around them.
Generational boundaries are defined by groups of individuals with shared experiences and common values. Historically, this definition has classified generations that changed at the rate of change of world values. Generational change has accelerated to meet the rapidity of change of the new millennium.
Each generational cohort includes members who had similar childhood experiences and a comparable worldview, work traits, teaching and learning styles, communication preferences, and expectations of how they interact with their world.2 Individuals born on the border between generational groups may engender attributes of more than one classically defined generation. These people, called “cuspers,” historically play an important role in facilitating intergenerational understanding and harmony.3
This chapter will describe individual generational characteristics and the intergenerational differences among topics encountered in the practice of emergency medicine (EM) including teaching and learning, technology, and departmental structure and function, and conclude with strategies to bridge these generational differences.
Generational groups (Figure 105-1) tend to share major life experiences and societal events at similar stages of life development. This common history leads to mutual values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Table 105-1 lists attributes of each of the 4 generations in the workplace today: the traditionalists (born 1925-1945), the baby boomers (born 1945-1962), generation X (born 1962-1980), and the millennials (born 1980-1999).
Current US population (aged 10 years and greater) divided by generation of birth. (Source: Data courtesy US Census 66; © 2011 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. Used with permission.)
Table 105-1 Overview of Generational Characteristics |Favorite Table|Download (.pdf)
Table 105-1 Overview of Generational Characteristics
Childhood Family Characteristics
Great Depression, rebuilding after WWII, Cold War
Traditional family, married young, divorce uncommon
Loyal, reluctant to challenge status quo, dedicated, believe in honor and duty, patriotic
Value hierarchy, loyal “company man,” job security
Tend not to understand
Baby boomers (1945-1962)
Civil Rights and Women's movements, Vietnam War, TV, economic prosperity
Traditional nuclear family, many grew up with stay-at-home mother and hardworking father
Optimistic, desire personal gratification, highly competitive
Workaholics, competitive, consensus builders, mentors
Learners dependent on educators, lecture format, process-oriented
Not particularly techno savvy
Generation X (1962-1980)
Limited economic prospects, fall ...
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