The Invisible Side of Different Generations in Project Teams

Generation X represents the majority of members in project teams around the world. (The exact date range of this generation varies, but for the purpose of this post, it is those born in the 1960s through the early 1980s).

These team members are potential candidates to transition to higher ranks once their senior project managers and program managers are ready to retire.

Veteran project managers and program managers who are close to retirement are looking for the right successor. But that can be challenging because of the divergence of values among generations.

Cultural and generational beliefs and behaviors have both “visible” and “invisible” components.

Visible elements of beliefs and behaviors are easy to observe and represent the ‘what’ of cultures and generations. For example, baby boomers are confident, independent and self-reliant, and those from the Silent generation are disciplined and loyal.

The invisible part is not easy to observe and represents the ‘why’ of cultures and generations. It holds values, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that are a result of shared experiences.

During Generation X’s childhood years, in the mid 60’s and 70’s, there was an intense competition between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. This competition influenced people to strive towards their country goal and fostered teamwork.

The competition between countries included fields like economy, politics, science and sports. Generation X was born into, and grew up in this competitive environment. They have taken their culture and spirit to the workplace and positively impact project teams with their pragmatism, competence and technological savvy.

In my opinion, project managers and team members of different generations need to look on the invisible side of their beliefs and values to understand each other and avoid stereotyping and creating the wrong perception.

As a project manager, what would you say is the main contribution of Gen X team members?  What other invisible factors had a positive effect for generations now in the workforce?

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