Generational Approaches to Work – Traditionalists – Part 2 of 5

Tracy KosterHR

Born between 1927 and 1945, Traditionalists (also known as the Silent Generation) are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. About 95% of Traditionalists are retired from the workforce. Those who remain in the workforce are at or near retirement and many work reduced hours. They are largely aging partners, managers and senior support staff. Punctual, sharply dressed and proudly conservative, they believe that hard work is its own reward. They are likely signing your paycheck. They are survivors of hard times – the Great Depression, two World Wars, and witness to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Known to be loyal, self-sacrificing and thrifty, many of this group are military veterans and, at work, operate on the military chain of command. Also worth noting, traditional gender roles and family structure were commonplace for this generation, with husbands working while wives cared for the home and children.

Below are a few common characteristics of Traditionalists.

Hardworking – Traditionalists have established our present day workplace ethic and created the “white collar” job. They are “company men” and are loyal to their organizations. They also have exceptional problem-solving skills and the experience and knowledge of what has and has not worked in the past. This generation grew up during lean times and believe you earn your own way through hard work. Traditionalists are willing to put in long, grueling hours to get ahead in their careers.

Loyal – Traditionalists are loyal to their employer and take an active interest in the community. Unlike younger Generations X and Y, many Traditionalists worked for the same employer their entire life and are less likely to change jobs to advance their careers.

Submissive – Traditionalists were taught to respect authority. They are good team players and generally don’t ruffle feathers or initiate conflict in the workplace.

Technologically Challenged – Of all the four generations (see my article dated August 20, 2009), Traditionalists are slow to change their work habits. As a whole, they tend to lack technological literacy and prefer face-to-face meetings, stopping by the office or using the phone instead of email or texting. As technology evolves and changes the practice of business, Traditionalists may struggle to learn new technology and work processes.

Traditional – As the name suggests, Traditionalists value traditional morals, safety and security as well as conformity, commitment and consistency. They prefer brick-and-mortar educational institutions and traditional lecture formats to online, web-based education. In the workplace, they favor conventional business models and a top-down chain of command. They are excellent mentors to younger generations. When speaking with Traditionalists in any context, take the time to really listen. Don’t interrupt. Hold your questions until an appropriate pause. They will appreciate the courtesy. Many in this age group thrive on verbal and public acknowledgment of their experience, value due process and appreciate having the reasoning behind decisions explained to them.

The information in this article is intended for general guidance only. Readers are requested to contact their professional advisor prior to acting on the basis of material contained herein.