Bridging the Generational Gap


If you have found yourself frustrated with the work ethic of the younger generation, you are not alone. As a Millennial who never received a ‘participation trophy,’ I can understand the difficulty that comes with managing individuals that believe advancement is a right as opposed to something that is earned. While many interpret this mindset as selfish, I believe it is a product of a constantly changing world in which we Gen Yers are trying to keep up.

As Frank Manfre points out in The Class of Generations in the Workplace in May’s JDT publication, it is not easy for someone in a management position to create harmony in the workplace when faced with a generational divide. It is common for employers to have 4 generations in the workplace, including Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Generation Y aka Millenials (born 1980-2000) and the newest addition to the workforce called Generation Z (born after 2000). Although these generations may be difficult to manage at once, it is possible – and it starts with an understanding of yourself and those you lead.

Learn how other generations view important issues such as work/life balance, feedback, authority, teamwork and how they spend their time outside of work. Developing an understanding of what each generation expects will create a more cohesive work environment. For example, Gen Xers place a lot of importance on maintaining a work/life balance, while Baby Boomers think life revolves around work. Boomers also respond best to face-to-face meetings and seek minimal feedback, while Millennials are a tech-savvy group that requires constant feedback. Identifying these differences and understanding these needs will help to create a cohesive work environment for managers and employees alike.

It is equally as important for employees to understand these differences as it is for managers, and holding workshops is a great way to build awareness and create respect among teammates. Creating a safe environment for employees to talk openly about their expectations at work will enable them to better understand themselves and their colleagues. Effective leaders will draw upon the strengths of each generation and recognize the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach.

With Baby Boomers putting off retirement and Gen Z entering the workforce, it is evident that different work ethics and employee expectations are going to continue to affect businesses and organizations. The only way to effectively manage these differences is to learn to appreciate them and to embrace them.

Caitlin Meuser
Senior Integrated Marketing Specialist
Henry Schein


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