Generations in the Workplace

Generations in the Workplace:
Building Bridges
In Small Groups….
• Do you have a
story to tell in
which two or more
collided at work?
Social experiences
News headlines
Economic Conditions
Size of the Cohort
Generation Gaps: Why We Struggle
Political Experiences
Shared Life Experiences
Pop Culture
Born 19461964
Born 19251945
80 Million
56 Million
Gen “Y”
Born 19781996
78 Million
Born 19651977
38 Million
In Small Groups….
• What are the shared
life experiences and
social, political,
economic events
that impacted the
cohort you’ve been
• What are some of
the pop culture
icons of the cohort?
Some Defining Events:
• Great Depression
• The New Deal/Social
Security/GI Bill
• WWI, WWII, then
Korean War
• Betty Crocker
• Charles Lindbergh
• Roaring ‘20’s
• The Rat Pack
• Radio
• Party-line telephones
Builder/ Veteran Values
Duty before pleasure
Honor heroes and leaders
Belief in institutions like
the church, government,
• Discipline
• Hard work and sacrifice
should be rewarded
In the Workplace
One Career, in one company
Lines of authority are clear and respected: chain of command
Respectful of and obedient to leaders
Autocratic leadership and management
Prefer consistency and conformity to procedure/policy
Feedback only when something is wrong
Delayed reward and gratification
Baby Boomers
Some Defining Events:
• Economic Prosperity
• Civil Rights Act
• Human rights movement
• Peace Corps
• JFK, MLK, Jr. Assassinated
• Vietnam
• Birth Control
• Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll
• Cold War
• Television
• McCarthy hearings
• Space Travel
• Credit cards
Baby Boomer Values
• LIVE to work
• Identity is tied to professional
• Hard work = success
• Love/hate relationship with
• Belief and trust in institutions
• Competitive: get ahead
• Service-oriented; optimistic
• Relationship/team-builders
• Health and wellness
• Forever young
In the Workplace
Upward mobility in 2 – 3 companies
Love/hate relationship with leaders: change of command
Participative leadership and management
Hard work and sacrifice = promotion!
Annual performance reviews
Proud of their experience
Willing to go the extra mile – good team players
Use technology to work MORE!
Generation X
Defining events:
Watergate scandal
Nuclear disasters
Challenger Disaster
Fall of Berlin Wall
First Gulf War
Exxon Valdez oil spill
Corporate downsizing
Tripling divorce rates
“Latchkey Kids”
Cable television
Video games
Personal computers/cell phones
International Space Station
Energy crisis
Generation X Values
• Skepticism
• Distrust of institutions
• Hard work does not guarantee
• Work-life balance: work to LIVE
• Identity is connected to fun, family
• Self-reliant, autonomous
• Practical/pragmatic
• Work should be fun
• Competitive; upward mobility
• Adapt to change well
• Techno-literate
• Instant gratification
• Multi-taskers
In the Workplace
2 – 3 careers, several companies
Not intimidated by authority; titles don’t matter to them
Respect ability and knowledge, not the title
Thrive on change; tendency to reject rules in favor of what is practical to them
Want frequent feedback on how they can improve and be promotable
Value on the job training
Use technology to help them balance home and work life
Defining Events
September 11; terrorism; Columbine
Natural disasters
Drugs and gangs in schools
Clinton scandal
Technology-based social networking
Self-esteem movement; everyone gets a
• Helicopter parents who told them
“They’re special”
• Best-educated generation; but have
never worked.
• Busy, over-planned lives
Millennial Values
FAST multi-taskers
Work to LIVE
Socially responsible: Volunteerism
Interested in spirituality
Expect and celebrate diversity
Confident; believe they are ready
now for more responsibility
Like to work in teams
Technology is an integral part of
who they are
Delayed adulthood
Want and expect PRAISE
Morality; abstinence up, substance
abuse is down
In the Workplace
Anticipate having 5 – 7 different careers
Respect authority figures and believe they are useful as mentors, cheerleaders, and career counselors
First generation who doesn’t need an authority figure to access information
Want and need mentors, but do not know how to reach out to them
Need interpersonal communication skills
Want constant feedback….and LOTS of PRAISE!
Want work to be meaningful, challenging, and on their own terms
Expect diversity
Expect rewards
Shared Values of All Generations
Want challenging
Want work-life
Want to be
fairly treated
-- Ben Rosen, Ph.D., UNC-CH Kenan-Flagler Business School
opportunities to
advance and
All generations agreed that the
ideal leader…
• Leads by Example
• Is Accessible
• Helps others see how their roles contribute to the organization
• Acts as a coach and mentor
• Challenges others and holds others accountable
-- Ben Rosen, Ph.D., UNC-CH Kenan-Flagler Business School
Tips for working
with Millennials
• Acknowledge their expertise and perspective and that
you can learn from them
• Be open to new ways of working
• Embrace technology
• Create opportunities to involve them in important
• Offer to be a mentor
• Find a communications balance
• Foster fun work environment
• Give frequent feedback and praise
• Avoid age-related name-calling “the children”
Tips for working
with Generation X
• Acknowledge their experience, expertise, and that
you can learn from them
• Be clear and direct; avoid jargon, buzzwords
• Find a communications balance
• Allow flexibility in work style processes
• Honor the need for work-life balance
• Encourage a friendly, casual work environment
• Avoid age-related name-calling “slacker, no loyalty,
poor work ethic”
Tips for working
with Baby Boomers
• Acknowledge their experience, expertise, and hard
• Find a communications balance between
text/email/voicemail and face-to-face
• Seek their help with workplace politics
• Use them as a sounding board
• Avoid age-related comments like “They’ll do anything
to get ahead, they’re workaholics”
Tips for working with
Acknowledge their experience and dedication
Pay attention to the chain of command
Speak positively about history of organization
Express interest in the work – processes, projects, etc.
Seek their insights
Use them as a resource
Acknowledge their respect for rules and hierarchy
Avoid age-related offensive comments “Aren’t you ready
to retire?”
What will you commit to do differently to
improve teamwork with coworkers of
different generations?
“People resemble their times
more than they resemble their parents.”
Zemke, Ron; Raines, Claire; and Filipczak, Bob. Generations at Work., 2nd Edition.
AMACOM, 2013.
White, Marion. “Rethinking Generation Gaps in the Workplace: Focus on Shared
Values.” Whitepaper published by UNC Executive Development, 2011.
Espinoza, Chip; Ukleja, Mick; and Rusch, Craig. Managing the Millennials. John
Wiley & Sons, 2010.
Lancaster, Lynne C. and Stillman, David. When Generations Collide. Harper
Business, 2002.