Janet Rae | Sociolinguistics 4315 | Dr. Peter Gingiss and Dr. Carol Archer

Culture Bumps:  When Generations Collide

Research indicates that people communicate based on their generational backgrounds. Each generation has distinct attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits and motivational buttons. Learning how to communicate with the different generations can eliminate many major confrontations and misunderstandings. 1

Generational diversity has been around for, well generations. For example, never before have we had four generations in the workplace, giving rises to more articles, boos, and news segments on the topic. According to Greg Hamill’s Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees, our society is struggling to harmoniously co-exist with four distinct generations in and out of the workplace. Some of the characteristic of each generation are defined below. 2

1 www.fdu.edu at Page 22 ib. at Page 4

Veterans (1922-1945) Baby Boomers (1946-1964) Generation X (1965-1980) Generation Y (1981-2000)
Core Values Respect for authority; conformers; discipline Optimism; involvement Skepticism; fun; informality Realism; confidence; extreme fun; social
Family Traditional; nuclear Disintegrating Latch-key kids Merged families
Education A dream A birthright A way to get there An incredible expense
Communication Media Rotary phones; one-on-one; write a memo Touch-tone phones’ call me anytime Cell phones; all me only at work Internet; picture phones; e-mail
Dealing with Money Put it away; pay cash Buy now; pay later Cautious; conservative; save, save, save Earn to spend

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I live with someone who is a Millennial, a Nexter, Generation Y. My son, Jeff, just turned 18. As I look back over the course of his 18 years (as moms tend to do), I believe we have always been in the midst of one culture bump or another-some even simultaneously! One major “bump” that has been a thorn in y side since the day he was born is money, and all that goes with it – be it spending or saving it.

My parents were Traditionalists. They both came from working class families and neither of them went to college. My dad was in “WWBig” (WWII) and they were married when he was home on leave just before the war ended. He was in and out of jobs, and was a carpenter/cabinet maker by trade. Some years were leaner than others. My mom did not work outside our home until I was in the fourth grade, and then she went to work at the local hospital as an insurance billing clerk not making enough, really to pay the gas to and from the hospital. There are five girls in my family, so I was the recipient of my older sisters’ hand-me-downs, whether I liked it or nt. We scraped by, but didn’t have any extras.

And because we didn’t have any extras, there really wasn’t much, if anything to save. Rarely did any of the younger sisters get anything new, and when we did, it was usually for a special occasion like birthday or Christmas. Yes, we had friends who had ore than we did, but that was okay. Until we were in high school and could make money of our own, there was little we could do about having any extras. And because we didn’t have any extras, there really wasn’t much, if anything, to save. Rarely did any of the younger sisters get anything new, and when we did, it was usually for a special occasion like birthday or Christmas. Yes, we had friends who had more than we did, but that was okay. Until we were in high school and could make money of our own, there was little we could do about having any extras. So we made our own money or the extras. My sisters and I got a job as housekeepers at the local Methodist church on the weekend. My older sister was the “head” housekeeper and my little sister and I were her crew. Considering what little I made I till managed to save a good portion of it.

I have always had a job and have always been a saver, as is my son’s dad. What happened to the generations after us Baby Boomers, giving us the Generation YsMillienials/Nexters, I do not know-except to say that, in my opinion, we have created money monsters! When it comes to saving money, my son and I are cultures classing in the night! According to Dennis Gaylor in the table compiled on generational differences, Generation Y/Millienials’ view of managing money is “conscientious, get it now on-line” 2. The “get it now on-line” part is right, but I can assure you that Dennis did not have my son’s spending habits in mind when he used he word “conscientious”!

Last summer Jeff applied for a job in the corporate headquarters of Antone’s. He found he people (Boomers and GenXers) nice, the job itself boring an not very exciting. After all, he was in the corporate office and things were pretty mundane and quiet – not a lot of excitement, according to him. Fortunately for him, an employee quit at one of the sandwich shops in the Galleria area, and he was asked to fill in. He was ecstatic! It wasn’t any more money, but he would be out amongst the public, around people nearer his age, and he would not have to dress in khakis and button downs every day?

In describing my parents’ savings background, as well as my own, I have set the stage for the culture bump that took place between Jeff and me last summer. Ah, the money was rolling in…and rolling out. That kid could spend money faster than he made it—and the things he was spending it on! It is a good thing it was not my money, although I admit he has wasted a fair amount of his dad’s and mine in the past. Let me back track and say that I went to Wells Fargo with him shortly after he got his first pay check and opened up a savings account for him and, in retrospect, I now wonder why? The money was never in there more than 24 hours before he withdrew it to purchase something silly, to my way to thinking. He decided he was going to purchase a new cell phone from one of these less-than-reputable shops on Westheimer. It was a Razor-black, sleek and expensive – $250.00 worth of expensive. I was appalled at the price! I wondered, now why does he have to have that particular phone? We discussed the pros and cons of the purchase, but what I thought of as solid and sound reasoning fell on deaf ears. So, he purchased the phone and was overjoyed. He was cool, he was hip, he had the newest phone going. I knew how much and how long he had wanted it, but I thought how in the world is Jeff going to make it in the world with these kinds of spending habits? Will he ever learn the value of a dollar? (I swore it would never happen, but I really do sound like my parents)

Oh, well, I thought, he is happy. He now has the phone he wants, we an talk mobile to mobile, and he paid for it, not me. Had it been me, I would have kept the money in the bank Unfortunately for him, he was unable to get great reception and couldn’t figure out why. The salesperson “failed” to tell him that the phone was one that you could only use in Europe, and that he would have to pay “extra “for an upgrade in order for it to work properly in the United States. Another $150.00 out the window to upgrade, but a lesson well learned. We have since talked about the amount of money he eventually spent on the phone, and how he now wishes she had not been so impulsive and done more research before buying it. As with anything new, the novelty has since worn off, and it is jut another gadget, albeit an expensive one.

I did some mirroring with his dad about the situation and we both agreed that our son had again managed to wasted (what we thought of as waste) more of his hard earned money. Jeff has since expressed a wish that he had back all the money he has ever spent on things he now calls foolish. Maybe he is learning!

Works Cited

  • Gaylor, Dennis. “generational Differences” http://www.reachtheeu.com, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, USA. April 2002
  • Hammill, Greg. “Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees”. http://www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.html, Winter/Spring 2005. FDU Silberman College of Business. March 25, 2007.

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