Beyond Labels – Part 1: Bringing Out the Best in Each Generation

Part one of a generational timeline including Veterans, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.

There has been a lot of discussion of late regarding the differences in the workforce based on their generation, from work ethics, career plans, lifestyle and overall commitment to the job. “Baby Boomers are workaholics,” “Generation X-ers are skeptical cynics,” “Millennials are disloyal” – these are all negative stereotypes commonly present around the workplace. Let’s dive into part one of four in this fascinating series!

Labels and quick judgments can happen, but we must actively work out our differences and create a positive workplace with productivity and communication in ways we all understand. We must move beyond the labels associated with each generation to avoid actively creating barriers that hinder tapping into each person’s strengths and working together to bring out the best in each and every team member.

From values and goals to work ethics and communication styles, every generation is fundamentally different – but is that all bad?

“Generational personality comes from events that a generation of people experience as they are growing up in a certain point in time in American history. These events shape the values of that generation which they later bring to the workplace.” – Robert Tanner

The Baby Boomers comprised the largest generation in history, and they saw things like the Civil Rights Movement and the assassination of JFK. The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Challenger disaster were influential events for the Generation X members. Millennials saw the rise of schoolyard violence (Columbine) and Google’s beginnings as a search engine.

With varying circumstances – including critical societal events, modern advancements, and styles of upbringing – differences are inevitable and impact the generational personalities that shape our current workforce.

BABY BOOMERS

Since Baby Boomers grew up in a time when there were more people competing for jobs in the workforce than ever before, there is a tendency to have a more work-centric approach and a tendency to do whatever is called for, such as longer work weeks.

Boomers are highly-educated and ambitious, with a high value on personal growth, team involvement and personal gratification, so providing developmental opportunities and avenues for them to shine will be beneficial in the workplace.

GENERATION X

In contrast, Generation X-ers were raised in a time period where both parents were busy with careers, which led to members of this generation developing core values such as independence, self-reliance, and practicality, due to their upbringing which often centered around taking care of themselves.

Professional settings can often see members of this generation pushing back on ideas, but don’t be fooled – they often carefully and thoroughly question everything, so that a detailed process is followed to ensure success.

MILLENNIALS

On the other side of the coin, the Millennial generation is confident, sociable, and optimistic for the most part. Growing up in supportive environments that oftentimes focused more on finding a career that means something rather than having the mentality of “if you don’t work, you don’t eat,” this group often seeks alignment between work and personal values and lifestyles.

Open-minded with a strong focus on purpose, this generation’s motivation levels rise when you can clearly explain to them how their daily work is positively affecting their community or environment.

The key to having successful working relationships with your team – regardless of which generation anyone belongs to – is understanding, and even celebrating, these differences to bring a focus of respect for one another to the entire group. A deeper understanding of each generation’s differing values is essential in order to bring out the best in each and help to strengthen the entire team.

Interested in learning more about generational differences and how you can harness the power of understanding to help create a stronger team in your workplace? Stay tuned for our follow up Part 2 post next week, which will focus on an essential element of breaking down generational barriers – enhancing communication.