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The Value of Generational Differences


I realized a few years ago, that the workplace was changing.  My childhood strategy of finding a job that I could stay with until I retire has become antiquated thinking.  Today, if employees do not like their job, they find another job that suits their needs.  So what happened?  And better yet, when did it happen?

I am a member of the Baby Boomer Generation.  Baby Boomers are hardworking, dedicated to the company and will work as long as it takes to achieve desired goals.  As Boomers, if we do not know the answer, we know that a card catalog, encyclopedia, or a conversation with your peers will provide you that answer.  But that workplace is now in the past.  I never saw it happening, but somewhere along my work journey, the Millennial Generation showed up.  Millennials are great multitaskers.   They are a computer generation where the answer to all questions is not found through the antiquated techniques of us Boomers, the answer to questions is found …. on Google!

Traditionalists, born before 1945, had to live through the Great Depression and WWII.  Unlike the Millennial generation, they feel a sense of responsibility to their employer.  Whereas the Gen X generation tends to disengage from their jobs if they feel slighted.  According to the Forbes Magazine article, Recognize, Reward And Engage Your Multi-Generational Workforce, Gen X “lack the optimism of the Boomers, share the fatalism of the Traditionalists, and dismiss what they see as the entitled attitude of the Millennials.”

Our challenge as leaders is in finding ways to motivate and communicate with the various generations in the workplace today.  The one size fits all approach no longer works and as you can see each generation has its value.  In today’s workplace, it is imperative that we customize our leadership approach to each individual.  Emails and text messages may work for some, but don’t forget to have face to face conversations with those who prefer it.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to know our people and to also know how to best communicate with each of them.

To learn more about the different generations, click here to see the Generational Differences Chart.  If you have any other suggestions on how to best communicate with a multigenerational team, make sure you share them in the comments sections below.

Janis Burl is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Janis Burl

For those of you that are having issues opening the generational differences chart, after clicking on the link, try clicking on the button in the top right corner that looks like a page with a downward arrow. When you hover over the page, it will say download, but actually brings up the chart.

To those who reached out to me, thanks!


What I found on my job where we have college interns and volunteers is that older folks are afraid to talk with that generation. Rather than tell them to put the cell phone down, they allow it and complain about their work ethics. I personally feel an obligation as a leader to speak to them directly and share my concerns. I do believe they respect and accept that more than just let them go. As the BB older generation we should be mentors to the M. That’s really what they need. The one thing the computer and cell can’t do is mentor one on one.