Article Review: Generational differences in academic EM

Men are from Mars. 
Women are from Venus.

By learning about our differences, we can learn to appreciate and better communicate with those who are different from us.

The same falls true for working with residents and faculty from different "generations", as defined as traditionalists, baby boomers, generation Xers, and millennials.

This literature review and consensus document is quite extensive and even comes in 2 parts in Academic Emergency Medicine. There is a great summary table of the generational differences in personal, work, and educational characteristics, communication styles, and technology.

Think of faculty who fit in these age groups. Do they fit their generational stereotype?

Traditionalists (born 1925-1945)
  • Personal characteristics: Loyal, reluctant to change, dedicated, value honor and duty, patriotic
  • Work characteristics: Value hierarchy, loyal "company man",  job security
  • Education characteristics: Process oriented
  • Communication style: Formal
  • Technology: Tend not to understand
Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964) 
  • Personal characteristics: Optimistic, desire for personal gratification, highly competitive 
  • Work characteristics: Workaholic, competitive, consensus builder, mentor 
  • Education characteristics: Learner depends on educator, lecture format, process-oriented 
  • Communication style: Diplomatic 
  • Technology: Not particularly techno-saavy 
Generation Xers (born 1964-1980) 
  • Personal characteristics: Independent, self-directed, skeptical, resilient, more accepting of diversity, self-reliant 
  • Work characteristics: Value work-life balance, comfortable with change, question authority 
  • Education characteristics: Independent learners, problem-solvers, desire to learn on the job, outcome-oriented 
  • Communication style: Blunt 
  • Technology: Interested and facile
Millennials (born 1980-1999)
  • Personal characteristics: Optimistic, need for praise, collaborative, global outlook 
  • Work characteristics: Team-oriented, follows rules and likes having structured time, career changes 
  • Education characteristics: Team-based learning environment, turn to Internet for answers, outcome-oriented 
  • Communication style: Polite 
  • Technology: Very saavy, technology is a necessity 
The authors give multiple examples where generational differences come to light but none more so than in mentorship within the academic department.
  • Traditionalists view mentorship as a more formal process, where feedback is necessary only to provide criticism or suggestions for improvement.
  • Baby boomers also view mentorship as a "top down" process. They are ok with infrequent interactions.
  • Generation Xers and Millennials prefer mentorship as a more "peer to peer" process with more frequent interactions. They value the personal relationships and the opportunity to collaborate in creative solutions. Because of their stereotypical distrust of authority, however, they may inadvertently sabotage their relationship with their mentors. Distrust sometimes is misinterpreted as a general lack of respect. 
To overcome these differences, mentor-mentee pairings should take into consideration gender and shared views about goals, work/life balance, and experiences. Early discussions in a mentorship relationship should discuss generational differences and how each envisions the ideal mentor-mentee relationship to be. The pair should agree upon and adopt a collaborative, shared communication approach with frequent feedback.

So much more in this article... Take a read.

Reference Mohr NM, Moreno-Walton L, Mills AM, et al. Generational Influences in Academic Emergency Medicine: Teaching and Learning, Mentoring, and Technology (Part I). Acad Emerg Med. 2011, 18:190-9, 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00985.x
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