Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace – Part I

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace – Part I

November 9, 2022
Shari Steinbach
Human Resources

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

There are currently about five generations employed in today’s workforce, each with a different set of beliefs, experiences, and values. Understanding what makes each generation different can help you avoid unwanted conflict and tension and is vital for personal and business success. Here is a brief overview of each generation and the characteristics that often define them.

  • Silent Generation: born between 1925 and 1945 - While this generation is on its way out of the workforce, they played a key role in the development of many companies and industries and many have worked with the same company their entire life. Common characteristics include a strong work ethic, being highly respectful of authority, and a strong value in conformity and loyalty.
  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964 - This generation values the American dream but had to compete against many others within their age group. They tend to be competitive, goal-oriented, independent and value high-quality. Baby boomers often believe that working long hours defines success and they appreciate face-to-face interactions with co-workers. They went through their education without computers and may also be less tech savvy.
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1980 – Gen X lived through a downward turn in the economy in the 80s and many saw their families struggle financially to make ends meet. With many of their parents both working, Gen X kids were often home by themselves. They are commonly self-sufficient, adaptable, resourceful and are not as loyal.
  • Millennials: born between 1981 and 1996 - Millennials make up the largest portion of today’s workforce and they grew up with advanced technology. Their parents worked hard to make their lives comfortable and they had a lot of attention from family members. They also tended to be involved in more group activities like sports and clubs. They incline to be team-focused, achievement-oriented and value a work/life balance. The overall company culture is often more important to them than their salary.
  • Generation Z: born between 1997 - 2015 – This generation has experienced a vastly changing world of technology, politics, and norms. Many Gen Zs come from non-traditional families, such as single parent households, and some have faced financial struggles. They want stability and will make decisions that align with their sense of self. Common characteristics include a value of job security, being tech-savvy, self-sufficiency, and a belief in diversity and inclusion.

In the second article on this topic, we will provide tips for successfully managing these different generations in the workforce.