It's a jungle out there and boomers bite hardest

GENERATION Y workers have received an undeservedly bad rap over the years, frequently portrayed as over-demanding and unrealistic in their short-term career aspirations. Generation X has fared little better - uncommitted and unfocused are the common put-downs.

Now the generation largely responsible for disseminating these stereotypes has been told to take a good hard look at itself; because it is baby boomers who are in fact the scourge of the workplace, says research that has examined inter-generational relationships among employees for the first time.

So difficult are baby boomers to work with, the latest Leadership, Employment and Direction Survey has found, that most baby boomers - four out of five - do not want to work with other boomers.

Generation X finds its boomer colleagues inflexible and set in their ways. Generation Y cringes at boomers' ineptitude with technology. And boomers themselves? Well, their peers would probably be fine to work with if they were not so self-obsessed and determined to do things their way.

The research, commissioned by Leadership Management Australasia, surveyed 774 workers spread across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Adrian Goldsmith, the director of Chase Research, which conducted the national survey, said the findings, in which Generation Y came out with a glowing report card from all generational groups, were surprising and concerning.

''They fly in the face of what we think about Generation Y, and they are worrying because for the next decade, it's going to be boomers in most of the senior management and leadership positions,'' he said.

''Boomers are going to have to reinvent themselves so that their own generation, and the other generations following, will be able to willingly work for them.''

The findings do not just apply to the office environment. Despite a 30-year gap, Paul Davies says his fellow zookeeper Becky Usmar, is incredibly easy to work with. Generation Y ''have got spark,'' said Mr Davies, 54. ''I get a lot out of them. They're very energetic and they think differently about things and I think that's healthy in a workplace. Becky is hungry to do well.''

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Ms Usmar, 24, says Generation Y workers pip their older counterparts when it comes to attitude and receptiveness.

''Someone will say, 'hey Becky can you do this please' and it's just 'cool, yep, fine'. I guess I'm not so set in my ways.''

The older zookeeper mentors the younger one and imparts valuable knowledge. The younger worker teaches the older one how to use a computer and send text messages.

''We teach each other things so there's a mutual respect,'' Ms Usmar says. ''Even despite the age gap, we manage to joke around. We've even had water fights in the keepers' area.''

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