There are so many broad generalizations about the generations and when we buy into them and react accordingly, we have lost sight of the individual and the attributes they have as well as how they contribute to the workplace.  It truly is time to rethink our expectations. Do you agree with the behaviors and expectations of your group?

In the previous article you learned about Gen Z Now let’s look at the other 3. The dates may differ slightly from other lists

  • Boomer –60- 78 strong work ethic to a point of workaholics in many cases. Believe in needing to pay dues.  Respects the organization generally but will question authority and seek to change the organization if necessary.   Technologically aware in general. Do not want to stop contributing. This generation represents the children of our World War II veterans. They did not go through economically hard times as their parents did, they had the good life – the Traditionalists wanted them to have the best and as a result, the “Me” decade arrived.

Baby Boomers Value…
o Competition: Boomers value peer competition and can be seen by others as being egocentric.
o Change: Boomers thrive for possibilities and constant change.
o Hard Work: Boomers started the “workaholic” trend. The difference between Traditionalists and Boomers is that Boomers value the hard work because they view it as necessary for moving to the next level of success while Traditionalists work hard because they feel that it is the right thing to do. ( Note Traditionalists, also called the silent generation was 1925-1945)
o Success: This generation is committed to climbing the ladder of success.
o Body Language: Boomers are the show me generation and body language is important.
o Teamwork: This group embraces a team based approach to business-they are eager to get rid of the command and control style of their Traditionalist predecessors. Yet many today are still doing the hierarchy approach
o Anti Rules and Regulations: They don’t appreciate rules for the sake of having rules and they will challenge the system. Think the 60s sex drugs and rock and roll and you can’t trust anyone over 30
o Will Fight For A Cause: While they don’t like problems, if you give them a cause they will fight for it.
Remember they grew up playing outside, Saturday morning cartoons, black and white TV minimal computers or tech until they entered the work force  and even then not like Gen X

Supportive Behaviors & Tips For Communicating With Baby Boomers…
o Boomers are the “show me” generation, so your body language is important when communicating.
o Speak in an open, direct style but avoid controlling language.Be respectful
o Answer questions thoroughly and expect to be pressed for the details.
o Present options to demonstrate flexibility in your thinking.

  • Gen- Xers –44-60- – independent,more technologically savvy, do not trust corporations in general, very entrepreneurial,  believe in balance of personal and work life. This generation tends to be economically conservative, remembering double-digit inflation and the stress that their parents faced during times of on and off unemployment. Unlike their predecessors, they will not rely on institutions for their long-term security. They were the “latch key kids” because both parents often worked.

Generation Xers Value…
o Entrepreneurial Spirit: Xers believe in investing in their own development rather than in their organization’s. While others may see them as disloyal they are cautious about investing in relationships with employers because experience has shown that these relationships are not reliable. Cavalier as it may sound, one Xer told a Boomer that if you want loyalty get a dog.
o Loyalty: To an Xer, this may mean less than one week notice of quitting
o Independence and Creativity: Xers have clear goals and prefer managing their own time and solving their own problems rather than having them managed by a supervisor.
o Information: They value access to information and love plenty of it.
o Feedback: This group needs continuous feedback and they use the feedback to adapt to new situations. This generation is flexible.
o Quality of Work/life: This generation works hard but they would rather find quicker more efficient ways of working so that they have time for fun. While Boomers are working hard to move up the ladder, Xers are working hard so that they can have more time to balance work and life responsibilities.

Supportive Behaviors & Tips for Communicating with Generation X…
o Use email as a primary communication tool.
o Talk in short sound bites to keep their attention.
o Ask them for their feedback and provide them with regular feedback.
o Share information with them on a regular basis and strive to keep them in the loop.
o Use an informal communication style.

    • Gen- Yers – under 44  – move in groups, don’t know what it’s like not to have technology at finger tips.  Have to be challenged or will move on. Do not like “boring, pay your dues” type jobs and don’t think they should have to do them.  Never been through a bad economic downturn until now.  Not afraid to speak to higher level executives as peers. Parents of this generation are often referred to as helicopter parents because they hover over them and are very involved in their lives.  They have never known a world without high speed video games, speed dial and ATMs. The secret to motivating this group is to provide systematic and frequent feedback – as it happens. They may not be as competitve as they are used to “everyone  wins”.

Generation Y Values…
o Positive Reinforcement: Members of this cyber generation value positive reinforcement at accelerated rates compared to older generations.
o Autonomy: This group wants more input into how they are learning and the independence to do it.
o Positive Attitudes: This group grew up during tranquil times and as a result have a very optimistic outlook on life in general.
o Diversity: This group grew up with more diversity than their predecessors and if not exposed to it in their community then they were introduced to diverse people and cultures through the media.
o Money: This group is used to making and spending money.
o Technology: Technology is valued and is used as a tool for multi-tasking. Many of them “text” rather than call even on cell phones.

Supportive Behaviors & Tips for Communicating With Generation Y…
o Use action words and challenge them at every opportunity.
o They will resent it if you talk down to them.
o They prefer email communication.
o Seek their feedback constantly and provide them with regular feedback..
o Use humor and create a fun learning environment. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
o Encourage them to take risks and break the rules so that they can explore new ways of learning.

A reminder about Gen Z

As Gen Zers enter the workforce, what would be helpful for other generations to know about their post-millennial colleagues?

For those who are now experiencing Gen Zers in the workplace,  recognize that these new colleagues are used to working collaboratively and flexibly, with an eye to being efficient in getting the job done. They are pragmatic and value direct communication, authenticity and relevance. They also value self-care. They may be more likely than older people were when they were the age of the Gen Zers to question rules and authority because they are so used to finding what they need on their own. They are not always right; often they don’t know what they need, especially in a new setting, and this is where inter-generational dialogue can be so helpful. Both the older and the younger colleagues can learn from the other, in each case by listening with more respect, appreciation and trust. The older colleague can learn some helpful new ways of getting a job done, while the younger colleague may learn good reasons for why things have long been done in a certain way. Without that dialogue, we’ll have a wasteful tug of war between the past and the future. The goal is for older and younger generations to work together, with openness and trust, to ensure that the wisdom – but not what has become the excess baggage – of the past is not lost to the future.(excerpt from The Stanford Report 1/2022

Managing the mixture of ages, faces, values and views is an increasingly difficult task.

How do successful companies handle this dilemma? According to Generations at Work, they build nontraditional workplaces, exhibit flexibility, emphasize respectful relationships and focus on retaining talented employees. Zemke, Raines and Filipczak recommend five ways to avoid confusion and conflict at work:

  • Accommodate employee differences. Treat your employees as you do your customers. Learn all you can about them, work to meet their specific needs and serve them according to their unique preferences. Make an effort to accommodate personal scheduling needs, work/life balance issues and nontraditional lifestyles.
  • Create workplace choices. Allow the workplace to shape itself around the work being done, the customers being served and the people who work there. Shorten the chain of command and decrease bureaucracy.
  • Operate for a sophisticated management style. Give those who report to you the big picture, specific goals and measures. Then turn them loose. Give them feedback, rewards and recognition as appropriate.
  • Respect competence and initiative. Treat everyone, from the newest recruit to the most seasoned employee, as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best. Hire carefully to assure a good match between people and work.
  • Nourish retention. Keeping valuable employees is every bit as important in today’s economy as finding and retaining customers. Offer lots of training—from one-on-one coaching sessions, to interactive computer-based classes, to an extensive and varied classroom curriculum. Encourage lots of lateral movement and broader assignments.

Think skills, not age: Positions traditionally filled by young people who are on their way up the corporate ladder may also be ideal for older workers “downshifting” in their work lives.

  • Tailor your managerial approach, and encourage the organization to craft roles, compensation, and benefits targeted at the needs of each group.
  • Delve into the motivators of each group and use these to hone your communications—from one-on-one coaching to department or company newsletters.
  • Mentoring roles can provide fresh challenges to middle and older cohort workers, stimulating their productivity while also ensuring knowledge transfer and building institutional memory.