Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Cost Analysis


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

Daniel T. Holt, PhD


There seems to be a widely held belief that different generations have different attitudes toward work, organizations, and co-workers. Clearly, these observed differences have implications for managers and leaders. Actions taken by leaders might be misunderstood by junior organizational members, leading to undesirable outcomes. Considering that many generational groups are represented within the Air Force, there is a need to analyze and understand potential generational differences. With the exception of the Smola and Sutton (2002) study, little empirical research has explored the extent to which these differences actually exist and whether differences exist among Air Force members. This research explores the extent to which differences exist among three generations of Air Force members, and the affects these potential differences have on leadership strategies. The generational groups studied were Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1978), and Millennials (1979-1994). Hypotheses were developed based on generational characteristics and tested using a questionnaire that includes 77 items to assess general work attitudes, attitudes towards job and organization, and individual preferences toward work processes. The results of the study indicate that while generational differences were shown to exist, significant differences among the groups accounted for a small proportion of the variables tested. Knowing these findings, if a leader or manager relies on generational stereotypes to establish human resource management policies and practices, they will be incorrectly applying leadership at least half of the time. Instead of focusing on generational stereotypes, leaders should focus on an individual's current stage of life. An individual's stage of life will more accurately reflect his/her attitudes towards work, loyalty to the organization, and job satisfaction.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number