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New Management Book Demonstrates that Generational Differences are Bunk

The authors cite their own analyses, which show that three basic needs are true of workers of all generations.


Theories about generational differences in the workplace – and popular recommendations on how to manage different generations to obtain the most productivity from them – are largely nonsense, authors David Sirota and Douglas Klein demonstrate in their new book, the “2nd Edition of The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit By Giving Workers What They Want.”
The authors cite their own analyses, which show that three basic needs are true of workers of all generations. They are:

  • Equity: To be treated fairly in relation to the basic conditions of employment, such as pay and benefits.

  • Achievement: To take pride in one’s accomplishments by doing things that matter and doing them well; to receive recognition for one’s accomplishments; and, to take pride in the organization’s accomplishments.

  • Camaraderie: To have warm, interesting and cooperative relations with others in the workplace.

“That is our ‘Three-Factor Theory’ of worker motivation and our studies show clearly that it applies to the overwhelming majority of workers, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or, age,” say Sirota and Klein. “We demonstrate, for example, that the same three factors drive employee morale in all of these categories. The prejudice about age differences comes, in part, from a confusion of what’s apparent and superficial (the manner of speech, dress, and entertainment preferences of young people) with what is real (their basic goals as they enter the workforce).”
“For the overwhelming majority of workers, no other goals are nearly as important as these.  Understanding these goals and establishing organizational policies and practices that are in tune with them is the key to high workforce morale and performance,” say Sirota and Klein.
The authors also describe two major studies devoted specifically to generational differences – one by The Conference Board of Canada and the other by Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership.  The two studies concur that there are virtually no differences between generations.  For example, it is often assumed that “Baby Boomers value work over life, Gen Xers value life over work, and Gen Yers only value life outside of work.”  But the data show that, in fact, the three generations all seek work-life balance equally.
Tenure, or length of time with an employer, is the primary demographic reason for differences in employees’ overall job satisfaction – not age or generational differences, according to the authors’ research.
“There is a significant decline in employees’ overall job satisfaction after they have been working with their employers for an average of six months or more. People tend to join companies enthusiastically, hopeful that they have found an organization where their work-related goals, interests and aspirations will be met. In most organizations, however, initial expectations are not met and attitudes then decline, reaching their lowest points during their third to sixth years on the job, before beginning to recover. But their enthusiasm never recovers to what it was when they started their jobs,” according to the authors.
An industry of consultants has emerged advising companies on how to deal with supposed generational differences. “That kind of advice is needless and can be destructive as policies based on prejudices so often are,” say Sirota and Klein.
The advice they offer in their book is to ignore all the talk about differences and focus instead on the kinds of policies and practices that most satisfy the three employee work goals – equity, achievement, and camaraderie – and, over the long-term, result in the greatest individual and organizational performance for all generations. Those policies and practices add up to what the authors call a “partnership” culture – a culture in which, whatever their generation, relationships between employers and workers are based on mutual trust and benefit and employees’ enthusiasm for their jobs and for their companies thrives.
“The Enthusiastic Employee (2nd edition)” is based on research with 8.6 million employees in 412 companies conducted by Sirota, a 41 year-old survey research and organizational performance consulting firm focused on conducting attitude research and driving action through effective data utilization.
For updated and detailed information about the research on which the book’s conclusions are based, visit us at
Please click on the following link to order your copy of The Enthusiastic Employee!  Enter Discount Code: ENTHUSIASTIC at checkout to receive 35% off the retail price (excluding bundle purchase).

 Since 1972, Sirota has provided many of the world’s leading organizations with census, pulse, on-boarding, exit, 360, culture, engagement, ethics and other employee surveys. Sirota’s solutions help clients make a sustainable impact on their business performance by better understanding their stakeholders, and by making strategic decisions based on this understanding.

For more information about Sirota, or to schedule a product demo, please call (914) 696-4700, or visit our website at


 employee engagement
 employee motivation
 employee enthusiasm
 survey research
 attitude research

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