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Is the generational business ethical?

by on October 21, 2013

Even if you are only an occasional visitor to our blog, you will have noticed that we sometimes get a bit ‘hot under the collar’ about the reporting of age related differences, particularly those associated with generational cohorts. Reading the alerts for our blog, extent of stereotyping about all the different so-called generations has become really draining!

So it was even more depressing that usual to find an announcement that “the arrival of Generation Z turns the workplace upside down” and in a related piece that it was time to “Make Way for Gen Z workers” – both pieces which appear to originate from USA today.  (Apparently Gen Z were born between 1990 and 1999).  Perhaps unsurprisingly finds that these articles are linked to a business venture based on advising companies how to manage generational differences, advice which is based on an impressive volume of data collected, though how much of this actually relates to Gen Z is unclear.

Regardless of your views of generational cohort theory, here the ‘announcement’ of a new generation in the workforce – many of whom are still in compulsory education – seems particularly premature.  Many of those born in 1997 will (in the UK) be taking their GCSEs this year, while those born in 1999 are mostly still 14!   Even for those ‘older’ members of this newest generation, many will only have been in work for a few years, and it is very difficult to see how ‘age related differences’ and ‘generational cohort’ related differences are being theorised here.

This prompts me to wonder whether these ideas are actually doing more harm than good and to question the ethics of stereotyping a group of young people before they have even entered the workforce.



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