Generations at Work

This article intends to help you learn the characteristics of the four generations currently in the workplace. Learn how to improve work team communication through understanding cross-cultural communication.

The generations covered are the Veterans (or Traditionalists), Baby BoomersGeneration X and Echo Boomers (also called MillennialsGeneration Y or Nexters).

Veterans — 1922 to 1944

Veterans, or Traditionalists, tend to

  • Like consistency and uniformity.
  • Conform to traditional roles and hierarchies.
  • Be disciplined and value a self-denial work ethic.
  • Be past oriented and history absorbed.
  • Have faith in organizations and leaders.
  • Have a conservative spending style.

Veterans at Work

  • They take time to add personal touches.
  • They look for freedom to socialize, particularly between assigned tasks.
  • They honor their hard work with plaques. They also honor it at symbolic stages.

 

The Baby Boomers — 1945 to 1964

Baby Boomers tend to

  • Believe in growth and expansion.
  • Value self-fulfillment and pursue their own personal gratification.
  • Question traditional roles.
  • Question authority, but desire to hold higher ranks.
  • Be big trendsetters, continuously morphing (e.g., hippies, yuppies, graying of the workforce). They get a lot of media focus.
  • Have learned about teamwork in school and at home.

Baby Boomers at Work

Baby Boomers tend to

  • Seek to prove their worth.
  • Seek to be asked for their input and expertise.
  • Seek to build consensus.
  • Look for public recognition and awards for their work ethic.
  • Look to receive perks in keeping with their professional status.
  • Look to build name recognition in the company through their projects and input.

 

Generation X — 1965 to 1979

Members of this generation tend to

  • Be self-reliant.
  • Seek a sense of family.
  • Have a nontraditional orientation about time and space.
  • Be technologically savvy — they have effectively dealt with what others think is information overload.
  • Have a casual approach to authority.
  • Value flexibility and risk taking, and see change as normal and desirable.
  • Use their survival instinct; loyalty is situational.

Generation X at Work

Members of this generation tend to

  • Like lots of projects to prioritize as they see fit.
  • Look to receive regular constructive feedback.
  • Look to have time to pursue other interests.
  • Seek to have fun at work.
  • Look to work with latest computer technology.
  • Be conscious of perks higher up the ladder.

 

Generation Y — 1980 to 2000

Members of this generation tend to

  • Be excited about working in teams.
  • Rarely feel supervising is an important career step.
  • Feel that the most important criterion for work is getting along with a widely diverse group.
  • Place high values on helping others.
  • Be conservative of traditions like marriage and family.

Generation Y at Work

  • You be the leader.
  • Challenge me.
  • Let me work with friends.
  • Let’s have fun.
  • Respect me.
  • Be flexible.

 

What You Can Do to Motivate Individuals From Different Generations

Veterans

  • Emphasize your belief and trust in them to “complete their duty.”
  • Acknowledge their specific history in your organization, the skills they bring to a project and what their contributions have been to your organization.

Baby Boomers

  • Praise them in public for the work they have completed.
  • Give them a chance to prove themselves and their worth.
  • Give them perks.
  • Invoke the personal approach. (“I really need you to do this for me.”)
  • Get consensus. Boomers often believe they invented participative management, and they can be mightily offended when you don’t involve them.
  • Give them opportunities to build consensus.

Generation X

  • Encourage creativity.
  • Commit yourself to providing feedback (both positive and negative).
  • Encourage Xers’ pursuit of other interests (not directly related to their job).
  • Provide state-of-the-art resources. Encourage utilization of technology.

Generation Y

  • Promote in-house education and training.
  • Encourage autonomy, diversity, communications, teamwork, openness to ideas and respect.
  • Act like a coach.
  • Offer challenging assignments.
  • Provide state-of-the-art resources. Encourage utilization of technology.
  • Keep up with their pace. Fast-paced communication is key to keep their interest.
  • Involve them in a partnership. Solicit their ideas and contributions, and work with them as a team.

 

Source: Clayton, S., & Vargas, J. (2006, February 8). Generations at work [PowerPoint Presentation]. Department of Commerce, Office of Human Resources Management. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from http://hr.commerce.gov/