Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549


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What’s Up with Professionalism?


One thing I believe all generations are aiming for is a reputation of professionalism. It’s a hot issue in some workplaces. In a recent program I led for the new Gen XtraordinarY group of the HR/NY chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), I presented some highlights from Practice Development Counsel’s recent ‘Professionalism through Generational Lenses Survey.” There were some surprises or ironies, but in general we collected a lot of data that reinforced the issues and challenges we hear about.

Responses segmented by generation revealed some interesting and notable findings I’d like to share here, each followed by my editorial comments. (Note: the number of Traditionalist generation responses was much smaller than the other generations, so we will not focus on them here except in general comments,)

Interestingly and overwhelmingly, survey respondents observed some similar unprofessional behavior across the generations. This is not to say that they believed most people behaved unprofessionally, but rather that such behavior is not primarily demonstrated by any one generation.


  • When asked to define the components of professionalism, the #1 component selected by all generations is work ethic. While work ethic definitions can vary, all generations believe diligent work is a requirement.
  • #2 is communication and listening skills. Notably, Gen Y/Millennial respondents selected this factor the most of the four generations although that is not known as one of their generation’s strong points.
  • #3 is integrity. This was the second highest choice by Boomers. It ranked as a substantially lower choice by Gen Y respondents. Further questioning is needed to determine why. Perhaps Gen Y respondents think other components are just more important.
  • The appearance and demeanor factor was selected most often by Gen X. Apparently the generation that was early on labeled “slacker generation” noted for grunge is now concerned with appearance and professional demeanor. Respect and fairness for others was also ranked high by Gen Xers.



  • For the Boomers it’s: 1) work styles and work ethic perceptions; 2) communication disconnects; 3) differences in expectations.
  • Gen Xers ranked these as highest: 1) different views of work/life flexibility; 2) work style and work ethic perceptions; 3) management style differences. Notably, Xers are least concerned about solving the disconnect in communications styles. Perhaps that is because they relate well to both in-person communication and electronic methods.
  • According to the responses, Gen Y is most interested in solving differences in communication media and usage and communication styles (their choices 1 and 2). A third top issue for them is management styles. Notably, differences in teamwork concepts, differences in expectations among the generations and work/life flexibility issues were ranked lowest by Gen Y respondents as issues their organizations are eager to solve.

We have much more in the detailed responses and report, but this article should give you fodder for discussion and planning for talent management of multi-generational teams and workplaces.

If you are interested in the summary report of the survey results with graphs, I’ll be happy to send it to you.  Request it at I can also present the findings and implications to your organization.

I urge you to send your comments, provocative or not, to me at or comment on our blog Let’s keep a lively dialogue going.


 ©  Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2011.

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* The generational chronology for easy reference: Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were in adolescent-early adult years. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:

Traditionalists:                          born 1925-1942   

Baby Boomers                           born 1943-1962

Generation X                             born 1963-1978

Generation Y/Millennials           born 1979-1998


Phyllis is available to speak at your organization or at firm retreats on inter-generational relations, organizational effectiveness and business development topics. Call 212-593-1549 or e-mail for a list of topics or to custom-tailor your own.

Check out *Next Generation, Next Destination*, our blog about succession, transitioning and multi-generational talent management. Visit, comment and subscribe by RSS feed or e-mail.