Appreciating Generational Differences in the Workplace


Communicating and engaging the different generations in the workplace is more important than ever, but also more challenging.  We are working in a time where employees are working past the traditional retirement date and there could be 4 generations of employees represented in a workplace.  Each generation has been raised differently and experienced life differently which has shaped them into who they are today.  The life experiences of people impacts their behaviour, communication preferences and the way they interact with others in the workplace.

This diversity can certainly provide benefits in terms of the unique backgrounds and perspectives that each generation brings. It can also lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Recognizing this potential and taking steps to proactively minimize it can help ensure a positive environment for everyone — one in which multiple perspectives and generations can thrive.

While it’s important to treat everyone as an individual and not stereotype them based on their generation, it helps to be mindful of the different experiences. 

For instance:

Baby Boomers – ages 55-73 are embracing digital technology – using smartphones and social media, however, they still place a high importance on face-to-face communication.  This generation also values personal growth & team involvement. They are highly-educated, ambitious, and tend to be multi-taskers – sometimes referred to as the “workaholic” generation.

Gen Xers – ages 39-54 are extremely comfortable using technology and are generally quite tech-savvy.  They want technology that supports their professional development. Generation X grew up taking care of themselves at home while their parents worked.  This generation is quite independent and self-sufficient. They value diversity, work/life balance, technology, and informality. They tend to view all work as just a job – sometimes referred to as the “work/life balance” generation.

Millennials – ages 23-38 want to work for a company that embraces technology.  They want mobile technology that facilitates collaboration and teamwork.  They grew up in a supportive environment where protective parents and other adults attended to their needs,  and all kids receive rewards regardless of individual effort. Millennials typically don’t just work for a pay check – they want a purpose.  This group values having a “coach” over having a “boss”.  Millennials are very “work/life balance”  but also crave flexibility in the workplace such as work from home and the ability to work flexible hours.

Generation Z – ages 22-younger this generation has never known a world without technology and expects the tech they use in the workplace to be just as great as the tech they use at home.  This generation actually prefers to bring their own device to work.  Money and job security appear to be top motivators, and more than any other generation they value honesty and transparency. (the age groups quoted above are approximate – my research showed a 3-5 year difference in the groupings depending on who published the information)

By being mindful of the experiences that each individual brings to their position, fostering a culture that celebrates collaboration, keeping the lines of communication open, and tailoring your approach to each individual, you can get ahead of any potential conflicts before they arise and reap all of the benefits of a multigenerational workforce.

We all have something that we can learn from each other – the challenge is keeping everyone aware of that fact!


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