Generations in the Philippine Workplace

January 27, 2020
Ma. Regina Hechanova, PhD

“Bakit ganoon ang mga bata ngayon?, Hindi naman kami ganoon dati?”
 “Grabe, that’s so analog (rolling of the eyes)…”

Today’s workplace is becoming more diverse and there is a growing sense that this new workforce is quite different. Although the diversity can actually be productive and lead to innovation, when not handled well, the differences in generations may lead to discord, conflict and have detrimental effects on relationships and productivity. There is a greater sense that leaders and companies need to better understand this new generation of workers.

Why are there generations to begin with? Generations are defined by the social, economic, political, and social events that occur during their formative years. We commonly hear the labels Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Baby boomers (those born from 1945 to 1964) are said to be shaped by Vietnam war, Civil Rights movement, the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, Watergate scandal, and the Woodstock festival. They are described as goal-oriented, competitive, optimistic, accepting of diversity, liberal, and workaholics. Generation X (those born from 1965 to 1980) are defined by the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, AIDS epidemic, the rise of MTV, and emergence of personal computers. They are described as independent, achievement-oriented, have strong technical skills, entrepreneurial, naturally questioning of authority figures and are not intimidated by them, and individualistic. Millenials or Generation Y (born from 1981 to 2000) are defined by events such as September 11 Terrorist Attacks, Second Gulf War, Iraq War, and Columbine High School Shootings, the birth of the Internet together and rapid technology change. They are described as technology savvy, adaptable to change, able to multi-task, highly educated, opinionated, demanding, and have less direction.

Although these labels are now commonly used across the world, it is important to note that the categories are based on the collective memory, recollections and experiences were developed in the West and using western milestones. Because of this, other countries have begun studying their own historical events to define their country’s generations.  In Netherlands, four distinguished historical eras in the Netherlands have beenidentified: the prewar generation, the silent generation, the protest generation, and the lost generation. A study in Chinese identified three generational cohorts based on their history: consolidation, cultural revolution and social reform.
In the Philippines, a local study by Helen Salvosa and myself found two (and not three generations in the workplace). One group appears to be defined by political events (Ferdinand Marcos administration, the bombing of Plaza Miranda, the First Quarter Storm, Martial Law, Assassination of Ninoy Aquino, 1986 EDSA I Revolution, Corazon Aquino Administration, Fidel Ramos Administration, Joseph Estrada Administration). Given these markers, we labeled it the political generation. On the other hand, the second cluster was labeled the technology generation because their historical markers consist of technological trends such as the Internet, search engines, social networking and digital technology.   These results are consistent with an earlier study by Fr. Sanjay Ignatius and myself that found two categories of Filipino Internet users – the digital immigrants and digital natives.
Interstingly, we found significant differences in how each generation describes themselves. For example, the political generation described themselves as work-centered, family-oriented, multi-tasker and decisive. The tech generation described themselves as being tech-savvy, carefree, laid-back, proud, individualistic, self-centered, arrogant, energetic, and adventurous.
We also found generational differences in leadership schemas, the political generation identified the following ideal leadership schemas as important to them: one who cares about people’s welfare, delegates, and is controlling. On the other hand, the technology generation’s schemas of effective leaders are those who give clear instructions, listens to and recognizes their followers.
Although we recognize that some of the traits may change as this millennial generation ages, it is also likely that some of these characteristics are enduring. These differences have implications on leadership and the practice of human resource management.  Organizations and leaders that fail to understand these differences and make the necessary adjustments on how they behave may find themselves unable to attract, engage and retain millenials.

This article was first published in the People Magazine of PMAP.
Dr. Gina Hechanova a psychologist and the Executive Director of Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development.

A 3-day workshop on Coaching and Working Across Generations will be held on February 19-21, 2020 from 830am- 5pm at Ateneo De Manila University. For more information or reservations email