Intergenerational Differences in the Workplace

A lot has been written about the different generational mindsets in the workplace and the friction that creates. Differences may be as small as double-spacing between sentences, something Gen Xers (born 1961-1980) don’t typically do. Baby boomers (born 1945-1960), however, learned to type on typewriters and double-spacing was necessary.

Similarly, Gen Yers (born 1981-1995) may be confused by the Generation Xers’ practicing of double-clicking the mouse. And now, Gen Zers (born after 1995) – the swiper generation – are entering the workforce. They’re frustrated that people are asking them to perform functions that can be done by an app.

While we might blame technology for the divide, the true culprit is human nature. Think about it. As teens, it wasn’t cool when our parents were at school with us. And as we started our careers, we may not have wanted people who remind us of our parents at work with us. That’s why baby boomers and Gen Xers have their tense moments. It’s also why Gen Yers and Gen Xers can stress each other out.

So what’s going on between Gen Yers and baby boomers? Well, maybe you remember not wanting your parents around, but loving, or at least tolerating, your grandparents. And, you thought they might give you money. That helps to explain why Gen Yers mesh well with baby boomers. In addition to controlling the promotions, raises and bonuses, baby boomers are mellowing. And their presence wanes as they retire or start their own businesses. According to the Kaufmann Foundation, baby boomers were twice as likely as Gen Yers to launch a new business last year. 

With arrival of the Gen Zers – the Millennial generation – the office plot thickens. They see themselves as entrepreneurs, but also in the presence of enormous student loan debt and the absence of angel investors, so they’re shelving dreams for a steady paycheck.

While baby boomers are more likely to stay longer with an organization than Gens X, Y or Z, they are also leaving the workforce. Additionally, the days of keeping a job just because the economy is bad are fading from our collective psyche. Face facts. Employees are on the move at a mind-boggling pace.

At Adams Keegan, we see the increased churning – recruit, hire, train, replace – burdening businesses. Rather than growing, they are running in place.

We’ll explore how to reduce this tension in order to retain employees of all ages more in an upcoming blog. If you need help creating a staying culture, let's talk.