Managing Generational Differences in the Workplace


By Taylor Burton Published on August 9, 2023

Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes

If there's one thing every generation has in common, it's putting the blame on different generations. Young people love to shake their fists at older generations and claim they're at fault for the world's problems. Meanwhile, older folks shake their heads at the youth of today, calling them lazy and entitled.

In the past decades, the world has taken vast leaps of change. Technology is evolving faster than ever. This has left each generation with major differences between them. Still, workers of all ages can come together to form a productive team and work towards a common goal. If you're in charge of a diverse, multi-generational team, it may prove useful to learn the differences, strengths, and priorities of each generation. This can help you become a more effective manager in the long run. Let's dive in!

 

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The Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

"Okay, Boomer," has become a popular phrase among young people who enjoy rolling their eyes at what the older generation might have to say. Born after World War II, Baby Boomers grew up in a time of economic security that the youth of today struggles to relate to as they face steep student loans and housing prices. Even so, that doesn't mean the Boomers' opinions should be taken so lightly.

Baby Boomers bring the most experience to any workplace. They also prize loyalty, hard work, and face-to-face interactions. A Boomer may opt for an in-person meeting over an email because they feel communication is weaker within a digital medium. They also view working long hours as being synonymous with success. 

While experience is their biggest strength, adaptability might be their greatest weakness. This doesn't go for everyone, of course, but the stereotype that older folks struggle with technology exists for a reason. They simply didn't grow up alongside it, leaving them less tech-savvy than younger generations.

Let the older generations feel valued by granting them the opportunity to pass their knowledge along. Suggest mentorship opportunities to the senior lawyers in your firm. If there's training to be done on new technology, give them plenty of time to learn. And most importantly, offer good retirement plans!

 

Happy old couple smiling in a park on a sunny day-1

 

Generation X (1965-1979)

While the Boomers, the Millennials, and Gen Z all bicker and point fingers at one another, Gen X has floated quietly along with little criticism. Living through the mass entry of women into the workforce, this generation grew up to be independent and self-motivated.

Due to this sense of independence, Gen X enjoys a little more freedom in the workplace and appreciates recognition for their individual achievements. They ask not just what they can do for their job, but what their job can do for them as they balance between their career and their aging families.

As one of the most fiscally savvy generations, they'll be paying special attention to benefits, healthcare coverage, and retirement savings plans.

 

Lovely middle-aged blond woman with a beaming smile sitting on a sofa at home looking at the camera

 

Millennials (1980-1995)

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, have faced a lot of criticism in the past, being labeled as self-centered, "special snowflakes." The heat has since shifted to the up-and-coming Gen Z, especially now that Millennials dominate the current workforce. They've faced recession and the pandemic, which has left them with a stronger loyalty to themselves than to a job they could lose within a suffering economy.

Millennials remember a time before the Internet, but wholly embraced the digital age as it grew alongside them. Because of this, they prefer communication to be virtual, taking the form of emails, texts, or instant messages, so that all the information they need is in written form. 

Work-life balance has become incredibly valued by the younger generations over the years. While Millennials enjoy career development and stimulation, they also prioritize generous time off. While Baby Boomers celebrate long hours, Millennials favor innovation, content, and results, and are leading the charge for a shorter work week. Recognition for their work also goes a long way with them.

 

Thoughtful young businessman sitting at a desk in the office watching something to the left side of the frame with an engrossed expression

 

Generation Z (1996-2010)

The latest generation to enter the workplace, they are currently taking a lot of heat for their supposedly low work ethic and sensitive dispositions. However, Gen Z had to navigate going to school or starting their careers in a pandemic-inflicted world. They missed out on crucial years of development and socialization as the world locked down and scrambled for solutions. They also grew up in the era of "helicopter parenting," and had less freedom than the generations that came before them. A little extra patience and guidance can go a long way with this young generation who is working to find their footing.

Mental health and work-life balance are especially important to Gen Z. They have no problem leaving behind a job if they feel they've been treated unjustly (and might even vent about it on social media). If you offer flexible schedules or remote work at your firm, and value a healthy work-life balance, Gen Z may find your job postings appealing. Tuition reimbursement programs and assistance with student debt are also a major plus.

Finally, there's no denying that this is the most tech-savvy generation to grace the workplace yet. They've grown up in the age of computers, smartphones, and social media. If you're looking to up your game in the technological world, and bring in some new ideas, a Gen Z hire might be a good fit.

 

Young business woman talking to her collegue and smiling

 

Every generation has faced their own set of challenges and harbors different experiences, but at the end of the day, you share a common goal within your workplace. This is the bridge that connects you. Understanding the differences between each generation while knowing what brings you together; only then can you lead your team effectively.

What else can every generation agree on? The fact that CSI is extremely cool. Join us for a truly entertaining and informative CLE experience, "CSI at PBI - Advances in Forensics" on Wednesday, August 16. Catch up on the latest in crime-solving technology while scoring those much-needed credits! See you there!