Understanding Different Generations in the Workplace

Today’s workforce comprises four different generations – from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. Over the span of seven decades, these are individuals who encountered different recessions and adapted to various technological advances. 

Millennials are the largest group of workers (35%), followed by Generation X (33%). With a variety of life situations, leaders need to recognize the unique expectations, motivators and even preferences for communication each generation has within the workplace. 

Recognizing how each person on your team operates is more intricate than you may think. To better understand your team, you need to find out what makes each generation different. 

Here are some general characteristics of the four generations making up today’s workforce. 

  • Generation Z (1997-2015) – The newer arrivals to the workforce, Generation Z is known to work for companies that align with their morals and values. In fact, this is a group where more than half research to see if a company matches their values before they make a purchase. Generation Z prefers in-person communication and values human connection. They also tend to prefer more frequent communication, expect clear directions and for their supervisors to check in with them more often, and seek out mentorship opportunities. 
  • Millennials (1981-1996) – A generation that grew up with technology, 41% of Millennials say that they prefer to communicate via email rather than face to face or over a phone call. Gallup research found that Millennials don’t see a distinction between their life and jobs, and therefore, expect flexibility and work-life balance. Although they are a demographic that is more likely to quit their jobs and are less committed to companies, they have a desire to seek organizations where they can find purpose. They are known to be efficient, driven and focused. 
  • Generation X (1965-1980) – When it comes to communication, Generation X is more open to feedback and takes criticism well. Although they know how to adapt to technology, they also have good interpersonal skills. Generation X has similar expectations to Millennials when it comes to work-life balance and schedule flexibility. This generation tries to manage their time wisely and set their schedules around their families or their interests. Generation X also tends to enjoy collaboration and are great team players.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) – Baby Boomers are work-centric and enjoy long work weeks and define themselves by their professional accomplishments. Baby Boomers are similar to Gen Z as they prefer face-to-face communication. They aren’t afraid of having difficult conversations and are willing to challenge established practices. They are also said to be more loyal, often working at a company longer than other generations. Baby Boomers often thrive while working independently and tend to be achievement oriented.


If you have a team of people from different generations, you need to meet with them to discover their expectations. You can’t assume that everyone has the same goals as you do – even if you were born in the same year. You may even find that your team members don’t exactly match up to the generalizations about their generation. 

In order to understand each team member better, ask them what they value about your company, what their professional goals are, how they prefer for you to communicate with them and how they feel about their role on your team. Although it may be challenging to cater to each individual, it will definitely help you realize how to make your team more efficient and productive.

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  3. The Best Way to Lead Gen Z
  4. Turning Hard Conversations into Breakthroughs
  5. Managing Conflict & Interpersonal Differences on a Team: 9 ways to bring unity
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