Multiple Generations in the Workplace


by Kathy Kirchoff

Are you a Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X, or a Millennial? Your generation is defined by your age, shared life experiences, world events, and technology. Your background has shaped your values, communication, and leadership style. Understanding your own generation, and the work characteristics and values of other generations, can make you a better worker and a more tolerant team player.

 

If you were born prior to 1946, you’re a Traditionalist. In the workplace, you may be considered a steady, loyal employee. You may respect authority, dislike change, be conservative, prefer face-to-face communication, and formal settings. You may want to seek out information to back up your decisions.

 

If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you’re a Baby Boomer. People in your generation sometimes tend to have a strong belief in personal growth and diversity. You may be independent, optimistic and idealistic, work until the job is finished, and prefer a mix of communication methods including face-to-face, email, and texting. You may view feedback as criticism and want to be rewarded for your extra-mile efforts.

 

If you were born between 1965 and 1980, you are a Generation X’er. Workers in your age group are sometimes described as cynical or impatient, placing more importance on their own development rather than that of the organization. You may challenge authority, love access to information, need feedback, and place a high importance on work/life balance. You may prefer email or texting to face-to-face communications.  You may tend to be results-focused and need to be kept engaged.

 

If you were born between 1981 and 1995, you are a Millennial. Workers in your age group are sometimes characterized as confident, educated, and social. You may desire challenging, meaningful work and an open work environment. You may prefer to work in a team, and be comfortable using all forms of social media for communication. You may be accustomed to instant gratification and want to be acknowledged.

 

These differences can create challenges in work teams that span generations. To get along and get work done, it’s important to acknowledge intergenerational differences and special talents. Older workers may bring the experience, wisdom, and soft skills younger workers sometimes lack. Younger workers may bring energy, innovative ways of doing things, and experience with new technologies. Be open to different work and communication styles. Generations must work side by side effectively to create the skilled, competitive workforce needed for the future.

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