University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

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Differences in Understanding Generation in the Workforce

Author(s): Michael Urick, Elaine Hollensbe, Gail Fairhurst

Status: Published
Year: 2017
Publication Name: Journal of Intergenerational Relationships
Volume: 15, Issue: 3, Page Number(s): 221-240


From an analysis of two age diverse samples in which we explored the ways “generation” is understood in the workforce, we make several contributions to generational research. First, we propose new conceptualizations on generations in the workforce. They are: contribution (a generation is defined based on the impact its members make on society or organizations) and generation as an ambiguous or irrelevant concept (generational categories are meaningless or inconsequential). Second, we note that individuals draw on a combination of multiple understandings of generations, making each person’s understanding unique and nuanced. Third, though most of our study participants leveraged age in their definition of generation, they did so in different ways. Fourth, we discuss outcomes of different understandings of generation, including conflict and identity work.


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