Several generations are working side by side in the workforce right now. The debate grows heated as each new generation enters the workforce. Why is it that from coast to coast around partners' tables, there is an age-old argument that the younger generations are not willing to work as hard as the older ones? Is there truth to that, or is it something else?

While different groups and individuals have opinions on what constitutes each generation from a cultural and technical viewpoint, we will be using the following as an outline of those generations: the Traditionalists (born between 1927 and 1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1946-64), Generation X (born 1965-80) and the Millennials (born 1980-2000).

He said: There are a lot of differences from one generation to the next. All we have to do is look at ourselves, our parents and our grandparents. We would all agree that we are different from them. Whether you are from the Traditionalist Generation or a Millennial, I don't think we really understand each other. It's unfortunate that those in power today, mainly the Baby Boomers, think that if it is not done their way, then it is wrong. Since they were successful, they blindly think that everyone has to follow in their footsteps.

She said: While there may be some truth in overall behaviors and tendencies that each generation brings, to overgeneralize the young professionals as being "not willing to work hard" doesn't cut it for me. Have you seen a recent list of CEOs out there, along with their ages? Mark Zuckerberg, 29, is the CEO of Facebook; Dennis Crowley, 37, is the CEO of Foursquare; and Chad Hurley, 36, is the CEO of YouTube, just to name a few. You can't deny that these Millennials and Gen Xers have worked pretty hard and it shows.

He said: These new leaders in technology companies and those in the accounting profession are showing that success comes in many different shapes. Many Baby Boomers were successful because they worked hard and sacrificed the personal part of their lives for the practice. They thought they were doing the right thing. Unfortunately, many expect everyone else to follow in their footsteps.

She said: People are unique no matter what generation they fall in. Some are more driven and some are less driven -- this goes from people in the Traditionalist Generation to the Millennials. Some are entrepreneurial and some are happy to not work at all. When you overgeneralize about a group of people, it creates a gross misrepresentation.

He said: I agree with this. The key for each firm is to find people who have the same values as you when it comes to client service, quality and money. If your firm puts a lot of emphasis on service, quality and money, then don't hire someone who has no interest in working to achieve these. Younger people are telling me that they aren't afraid to work; they just want to work smart and not work for the sake of work.

She said: Many Generation Xers saw their parents' lack of work/life balance and are determined to do a better job of balancing it for themselves. This is under the advisement of their parents, in many cases. However, not all young people are concerned with such a balance at this point in their career. Many are willing to work longer hours. I would also make the point that working long hours does not equate to productivity. I know situations where people who work 40-hour weeks run circles around their counterparts who clock up to 60 hours per week.

He said: There will be times when the work/life balance is out of equilibrium. Life is not perfect; otherwise we would have been given detailed instructions on what to do and when to do it. The important thing is that we have a healthy life.

She said: Why should we allow ourselves to cast stones at other generations when the same stones were cast at generations before us? As people age and mature in their professional careers, they improve their abilities and level of experience. As people become business owners, they tend to also step up their level of commitment. How soon we forget that we faced the same struggles as those behind us! Struggles include: finding our path, learning the technical skills, and also gaining maturity. We all go through it. Instead of pointing our fingers, let's set some expectations and lend a hand to make the journey more productive. I always tell people to strive to be the mentor they would have wanted in their career.

They said: Today's leaders would be wise to provide as much guidance as possible to tomorrow's leaders. Many aging Boomers are in a state of denial regarding their own aging. One of the hardest things to do is to recognize that your firm's success and legacy will only happen if you let go and trust the next generation to accomplish what you did -- albeit in a different fashion.

August Aquila is a well-known consultant, retreat facilitator and author. Reach him at (952) 930-1295 or Angie Grissom is president of The Rainmaker Companies, which exclusively serves accounting firms. Reach her at (615) 373-9880 or

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