Business with Art: A Discussion of SCT Theory in the Multigenernational Workplace

This blog entry is a bit different from my others. Typically, I aim to write about matters that are motivational and/or art-specific. While those topics will return in the future, today, I am taking time to write about a different topic of personal interest - one that I've been exploring and researching over the past 11-weeks in my business-focused academic program.

Back in April, I began exploring the topic of intergenerational knowledge sharing - this refers to how knowledge can be communicated within multigenerational workplaces. Knowledge sharing, on its own, is a very interesting field of study. The study of the knowledge sharing has become one of great importance, mainly because the successful integration of knowledge sharing practices plays a vital role in the success and value of an organization (Ahmad & Karim, 2019, p. 208). Intergenerational knowledge sharing, is also an important topic, considering the fact that older, more tenured employees may potentially share workspaces with younger, newer generations (Moore & Krause, 2021, p. 117), and they will need to collaborate effectively in order to lead their organizations toward success. As several members of more tenured generations look forward to retirement, it will become crucial that their knowledge is accurately passed along to the newer generations, who can continue to build upon the foundations of information that has already been established.

As someone who has often been the youngest member of her team of colleagues within the workplace, this topic was particularly interesting to me, mainly because, I've often wanted to explore how I could successfully participate in the knowledge sharing process with leaders in my area. I've wanted to learn how I could have the space and opportunity to communicate my knowledge and share my expereinces with others while also having the opportunity to learn from my leaders and gaining new insights. Unfortunately, I've found that I've been stereotyped on the basis of my age (amongst other personal attributes) by members of other generational cohorts, so I hoped that by exploring this topic academically, I'd gain the knowledge, tools, and resources to escape those stereotypes and excel in my profession.

So, you may be wondering how art ties into this experience. Well, it started with me first determining how I'd go about exploring this area. While my goal was to ultimately explore knowledge sharing resources and recommendations, I decided to take a step back and first examine the differences amongst each generation. I asked myself, "what makes me, as a Millennial, so different from my Boomer colleagues, besides the obvious work experiences, and potentially our educational backgrounds?" This question is what led me to discovering the Bandura's social cognitive theory.

For reference, the term “theory” refers to the explanation of observed phenomena, particularly as it relates to the evolution of behavior (Bhattacherjee, 2012, p. 11). In scholarly research, theories are used to address the issue of sense-making, as they can be used to remove speculation, disprove presumptions, and explore knowledge confidently (Collins & Stockton, 2018, p. 9). Specifically, Bandura's theory, the social cognitive theory, has been used to explain the psychosocial and behavioral functioning that takes place as a result of various factors, including personal or environmental factors (Bandura, 1988, p. 276). SCT explains that the ability of people to perform challenging or complex tasks competently, such as the last of knowledge sharing, is a dynamic process of human ability, and one that requires the effective deployment of resources (Lent et al., 1994, p. 83). In his theoretical model, Bandura explains that the reciprocal, bidirectional development of personal (cognitive), behavioral, and environmental factors amongst individuals, all influence human psychosocial functioning (Wood & Bandura, 1989, p. 362). So, when one is looking into the multigenerational workplace, essentially, SCT explains that the determinants of the behaviors of the various generations within the workplace are the result of the combinations of cognitive factors, environmental factors, and behavioral factors.

This lead me to the exploration of the specific factors that made up the generations that I currently see in the workplace - Veterans, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z-ers. Unfortunately, in the six articles that I read through, I did not discover much literature discussion Veterans and Gen Z-ers. One could assume that it is due to the current presence, or lack, of these generations within the workplace. The Veteran Generation is associated with people who were born between 1928-1945, and they are likely retired from work, as the youngest member of this generation will be 77-years of age in the year 2022. Gen Z refers to the population that was born between 1997 and 2012, where the youngest member of this cohort will be just 10-years of age in 2022. While there are members of Gen Z who have already begun to enter the workforce, it is likely that there is limited studies examining this generational cohort as it specifically relates to knowledge sharing and cognitive factors.

On the bright side, I was able to locate significant information on Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, and this is where my art comes in! With this image, I've drawn what I've discovered thus far about the factors making up the personalities in the multigenerational workplace.

Let's start with the environmental factors (left side). The environmental factors were identified within two of the articles as the following: lifetime events, media, music, presidents, and leadership in general (Arsenault, 2004, p. 132); and workplace locations such as quiet spaces within the home or team-based areas (Joy & Haynes, 2011, p. 224). So, within this image, I've used art to communicate this finding. Within the left side of this image, posters of 9/11, Michael Jackson, and Former President John F. Kennedy are present along with a surgical mask and tissues (representing the pandemic), and a rocket statue. These were drawn to represent some the various events and influences that have existed within the lives of the working generations.

Regarding the behavioral factors (right side), I've used art to explain the findings that were identified in four of the six articles. According to Bandura, behavioral factors encompass a combination of behavioral practices, skills, and self-efficacy. Such practices are identified in four of the articles, and in a variety of manners, which includes the following: working with integrity, honesty, care, and competence (Arsenault, 2004, pp. 134-135); communicating through various modalities such as via phone, video, and written methods (Bidian, et al., 2022, pp. 6-8; Sanaei, et al., 2013, pp. 998-1001); and working in specific settings, which have been identified as in open auditoriums, private offices, virtually, and in the office (Joy & Haynes, 2011, pp. 225-228). I found it to be a bit more challenging to represent this finding in just one image, yet I've drawn a laptop, phone, calendar, and career goal book, to illustrate the various behavioral methods that the generations use within the workplace.

Lastly, let's take a look at the cognitive factors. According to Bandura, cognitive factors encompass a combination of personal knowledge, expectations, and attitudes, and representations of these factors were identified in all six of the included articles. Per the studies included, cognitive factors are identified in a variety of manners, which includes the following: preferring leaders with expertise who have the ability to inspire their teams (Arsenault, 2004, p. 135); preferring to communicate through various modalities such as via phone, video, and written methods (Bidian, et al., 2022, pp. 6-8; Sanaei, et al., 2013, pp. 998-1001); preferring to work in quiet settings away from distractions (Joy & Haynes, 2011, pp. 225-228); preferring to learn actively and visually (Shepherd, 2020, p. 152); and preferring to work with the understanding that there is the potential to be promoted more quickly (Smola & Sutton, 2002, p. 376). Within the graphic, I did not attempt to list all of the cognitive factors. Rather, I chose to focus on the fact that various cognitive factors exist amongst the generations, and these factors contribute to the distinctions between the generations.

For the sake of integrity and transparency, I will admit that there are multiple limitations or shortcomings with these findings. For one, all of this information was discovered and reported in just 11 weeks, but just one researcher (me). Additionally, these discoveries were made by reading through just 6 articles. While my work was reviewed by a few of my peers, it is possible that items were overlooked, or information was missed from studies that weren't considered. Nonetheless, I found this information to be insightful and to satisfy my agenda, which was to explore the factors that contribute to the generations, respectively.

I hope that you enjoyed this reading. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!


References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the study.

Ahmad, F., & Karim, M. (2019). Impacts of knowledge sharing: a review and directions for future research. Journal of Workplace Learning.

*Arsenault, P. M. (2004). Validating generational differences: A legitimate diversity and leadership issue. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(2), 124–141.

Bandura, A. (1988). Organisational applications of social cognitive theory. Australian Journal of Management, 13(2), 275–302.

Bhattacherjee, A. (2012). Social science research: principles, methods, and practices. In Texbooks Collection (Vol. 3, Issue 2). Textbooks Collection.

*Bidian, C., Evans, M. M., & Frissen, I. (2022). Does generational thinking create differences in knowledge sharing and ict preferences? Knowledge and Process Management.

Collins, C. S., & Stockton, C. M. (2018). The central role of theory in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), 1–10.

*Joy, A., & Haynes, B. P. (2011). Office design for the multi-generational knowledge workforce. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 13(4), 216–232.

Lent, R., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying scct and academic interest, choice and performance. In Journal of Vocational Behavior (Vol. 45, pp. 79–122).

Moore, S., & Krause, A. (2021). Working with generationally similar or different colleagues: Impacts on perceptions of generational stereotypes and work-related attitudes. Psychologist-Manager Journal, 24(2), 115–139.

*Sanaei, M., Javernick-Will, A. N., & Chinowsky, P. (2013). The influence of generation on knowledge sharing connections and methods in construction and engineering organizations headquartered in the US. Construction Management & Economics, 31(9), 991–1004.

*Shepherd, J. (2020). Generational differences in learning style preferences among adult learners in the united states. Journal of Behavioral & Social Sciences, 7(2), 137–159.

*Smola, K. W., & Sutton, C. D. (2002). Generational differences: Revisiting generational work values for the new millennium. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(SPEC. ISS.), 363–382.

Wood, R., & Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory of organizational management. Academy of Management Review, 14(3), 361–384.

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