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Generational Conflict in Nursing: How to Relate to Colleagues from Multiple Generations

doi: 10.1097/01.NNE.0000343404.13234.6c
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In any nursing position, you will likely encounter colleagues from 4 different generations with differing and often contradictory values. Tension resulting in conflict may arise when attempting to meet the expectations of nurses (or students) representing the "Silent Generation", the "Baby Boomers", "Generation X" and the "Millenials". A greater understanding of the characteristics of varied generations may help alleviate problems in the workplace as well as in the classroom.

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Silent Generation

Members of this generation were born between 1927 and 1946. They were raised with military style authority to do their jobs and not complain. These professionals place value on appearances. Tattoos or body piercings on members of younger generations may be harshly viewed. Younger nurses can decrease mistrust that appearances may initiate by verbally affirming their commitment to nursing and to patient care.

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Baby Boomers

Many hospital administrators and supervisors are "Baby Boomers" born between 1946 and 1967. Members of this generation often define themselves by their jobs, and equate work with self-worth. Expecting overt shows of support, coaching, or nurturing from a "Baby Boomer" boss can prove futile. Younger nurses can effectively relate to this generation by asking them concrete questions. Communication with "Baby Boomers" can be improved if members of other generations ask specifically for time frames for activities or assignments, identification of resource persons, for a list of things to watch out for, and for a list of signs of trouble.

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Generation X

Generation Xers are latchkey kids born to working mothers between 1965 and 1981. This generation tends to be independent and prefers to develop solutions to challenges. In directing Xers the objective should be described, the tools supplied, and the solution left up to their devices. Xers need to take the responsibility to find out if certain tasks or skills must be done a certain way. Breaking a job down into small steps and creating a team appeals to this generation.

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"MIllenials" were born after 1982, are racially diverse, and function best when offered both structure and technology. "Baby Boomers" frequently do not understand this dependence on technology. Millenials benefit greatly from immediate feedback such as end-of-shift briefings. They also function well when mentored.

Understanding generational differences in nursing education as well as in nursing practice can facilitate productive learning and foster effective working relationships.

Source: Monster Career Advice. Full Text Available at: Accessed September 14, 2008.

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