The results we present here are based on responses to open-ended
questions about retention, career challenges, and conflict with peo-
ple of other generations. We didn’t ask specific questions about
change, so the results discussed in this chapter come from com-
ments volunteered (unprompted) about change. What this means
is that we don’t know what the whole sample thinks about change;
we know only what those who commented think about it. Having
given that disclaimer, we add that discussions we have had with
people about the results indicate that these results are consistent
with what most people think when they move beyond generaliza-
tions and stereotypes.
Do older people actually resist change?
Do younger people actually embrace it?
The short answer to both questions is no. Older people don’t have
a knee-jerk reaction against change any more than younger peo-
ple say “Right on, dude” every time a change is proposed.
In general, people from all generations are uncomfortable with
change. Almost no one who participated in the study (only 12 peo-
ple out of 2,500) said they actually liked change. Most said they
were concerned, annoyed, scared, and agitated by change in the
What you can face is working with people who have
been in the organization for a long time and do not like to
see changes in the workplace. This can be any age.
Older generations (Silents, Early Boomers, and Late Boomers)
were significantly more likely than younger generations (Early
Xers, Late Xers) to bring up change as an issue in their own ca-
reers, though they didn’t necessarily say they were resistant to
Overall, respondents from all generations are typically not
pleased about changes in their workplace. Although it is true that
older people are concerned about change, they are not signifi-
cantly more concerned than younger people are. Further, older
Deal.c06 10/10/06 3:38 PM Page 102
people aren’t concerned about change because it is different from
what happened in the “good old days”; they’re concerned about
change for the same reasons younger people are. People of all gen-
erations are apprehensive that organizational changes
Will increase their workload
Will decrease their authority and power
Will decrease their resources (both budgetary and human)
People also often believe that changes are often
Not communicated effectively
People of all generations are concerned about how organiza-
tional changes are going to affect them. Overall, the topics of re-
spondents’ comments fell into these five categories:
1. Doing the same work with fewer resources
2. Changes in both the internal and external environment
3. Technology changes
4. Change that is disorganized, unnecessary, or both
5. Resistance to change
Doing the Same Work with Fewer Resources. A key issue for all genera-
tions was “managing with less and trying to do as good of a job with
less staff,” as an Early Boomer said. All generations talked about
how difficult it was to keep getting the work done with diminish-
ing funding and resources. There were many comments that they
sometimes felt as if management thought they should be able to
do the same amount of work—or sometimes more!—with fewer
people to do the job. Generally the feeling was that the idea that
the same amount of work could be done at the same level of qual-
ity with fewer people was an example of management deluding
themselves—or listening too closely to consultants who were vali-
dating management’s delusions. People said that if the “strategic
reduction” in staff also came with a similar “strategic reduction” in
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