The Perceived Work Ethic of K-12 Teachers by Generational Status: Generation X vs. Baby Boom Generation

The Perceived Work Ethic of K-12 Teachers by Generational Status: Generation X vs. Baby Boom Generation

Gregory C. Petty (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/javet.2013040105


This was an investigation of the work ethic of K-12 educators from Generation X and Baby Boomer generations. Teachers of the baby boom generation were born between 1946 and 1964, and many are beginning to retire. There is an impending teacher shortage due to the large numbers of this group retiring or leaving the profession. School administrators and public school human resource specialists are beginning to focus on strategies to replace this experienced workforce. Administrators need to know if this group has different work ethic than later groups of teachers. In this study, Generation X teachers scored higher on the subscales of Easy Going, Dependable, and Committed. While Baby Boomers and Generation X teacher about the same on Dependable, Baby Boomers are more “engaged”. Though these differences in the subscales were not significant, The overall MANOVA for the comparison of work ethic as measured by the Occupational Work Ethic Inventory was significant at the p<.05 level. Many older teachers complain about the newer younger generation of teachers and their so-called “lack of a work ethic”. Unfortunately, there were not enough data to study teachers from the latest, millennial generation however, this study points to data that indicate there is more to this difference in perception that originally thought that could affect hiring and training of new generations of teachers.
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Some researchers (Zemke et al., 2000) suggest that understanding generational differences is critical to creating harmony, mutual respect, and joint effort in the work place. Otherwise there will be suspicion, mistrust and isolation that will work against the organization and not for it. A workplace must consist of the tools used to get the job done and of the people who complete those jobs. Our upbringings and histories influence the way we work and relate to others.

Howe and Strauss (2000) suggested investigating three common generational attributes “(1) perceived membership in a common generation; (2) common beliefs and behaviors; and (3) a common location in history” (p. 41). They claimed that there was not a solid line that divided one generation from the next, and even within generations there were distinct cohorts that further divided the generation into smaller, more distinct groups. “There are no hard stops or road signs indicating when one generation ends and the next begins…. but the specific affections of a generation’s formative years do bind them together in exclusive ways” (Zemke et al., 2000, p. 3).

Values development, so important to one’s work ethic, is significant when categorizing people by generations. Each decade is unique and those who grow up in a particular decade develop values that are different from those who grow up during other decades (Hicks & Hicks, 1999; Yeung & Fung, 2012). Children in their values development stages are influenced more by events and view events differently from adults who had the ability to filter the event through their established value system (Hicks & Hicks). The experiences and value development of younger generations are fundamentally different from those of older generations (Massey et al, 2008; Wallace, 2001). Hicks and Hicks divided people by generation by exploring the historical context of each decade and categorized by comparing the values similarities within decades.

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