Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual membership meeting of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Saratoga, WY on a topic that has been a special interest of mine during the past year: the impact of intergenerational differences in the workplace, especially in our field as sexual assault victim/survivor advocates.  There has been tremendous interest, news and research about the interaction of employees representing different “generations” or cohorts of our current U.S. history:  those born prior to WWII (sometimes referred to as “Traditionalists”); after WWII (“Baby Boomers”); during the early-1960s to 1980s (“Generation X”); and from the early-1980’s to the Year 2000 (“Generation Y”).  One area highlighting this generational impact is how different generations of employees communicate with one another in the same workplace.  While staff from older generations may prefer face-to-face or spoken communication, younger generations appear to prefer technologically-driven forms of communicating, such as email, texting and Twitter.  As a result, miscommunication and/or misunderstandings can arise, causing confusion, tension and frustrations – thereby impacting work practices and efficiencies.
Another area reflecting these intergenerational differences is work/life balance.  Research has indicated that those from older generations(WWII and Baby Boomers) tend to view work as a duty and obligation, if not one’s primary mission in her/his life – requiring 24/7 dedication to “get the job” done – even at the expense of her/his own health, family life and well-being.  On the other hand, younger generations (e.g. Generation Y) appear to maintain a steady work/life balance – thanks in part to the influence of social media and the importance of keeping one’s social connections strong, up-to-date, and growing.  Thus, a supervisor from an older generation may not think twice about “burning the candle at both ends” to get the job done – and may expect others to do and feel the same.  This may cause some issues with a younger employee who – while understanding work is important – that it is also not the “end all, be all.”
Communication and work/life issues are only two aspects of this larger conversation regarding the expectations and performance of today’s workforce.  For us in this movement, these issues become even more critical when it comes to serving survivors of sexual assault and rape.  So ask yourself: have you or your staff run into similar “intergenerational” challenges at your rape crisis center or program?  If so, how has it impacted your ability to provide intervention and/or prevention services?  Have these issues also impacted employee morale or the development of your staff, volunteers, or even board members?   If so, it may be helpful to discuss this issue with staff, conduct some online research, or seek assistance from CALCASA.  Please feel free to contact me if you would like assistance – even perhaps conduct a staff training at your agency on this issue.  You can reach me at (916) 446-2520, ext. 310 or by email: