Generational Differences

Much has been said about the challenges of managing different generations at work: the result of people working longer and the changes that occurred in the twentieth century.     Diffences in background and experience can lead to conflict and misunderstanding, and can be a challenge for the manager. 

Research by Birkman International, Inc. suggests that our differences are not in personality, but in cultural attitudes and values.  Their research “indicates that values and behaviors are similar among generations, but priorities are different.”  (Source: How Do Generational Differences Impact Organizations and Teams? Whitepaper* by Birkman International)


Veterans (those born prior to 1943) were stongly influenced by the great depression, the second world war, and the korean war.  They value respect for authority, honour, dedication, hard work and discipline.  Baby boomers may see thm as dictatorial and rigid; Generation X may see them as being too set in their ways, and Millenials may see then as trustworthy, and good leaders.

Baby Boomers (born 1943 to 1960) were influenced by the Vietnam war, the fight for civil rights, the peace corps, and flower power.  They value optimism, team orientation, personal growth, and work.  Veterans may see them as self-absorbed; Generation X may see them as self-righteous, workaholics, and too political; Millenials may think they are “cool” but they work too much.

Generation X (born between 1960 and 1980) grew up in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, and were the first “latch-key” children.  They value diversity, technoliteracy, fun, and self-reliance, and they work to live, not live to work.  Veterans may see them as disrespectful and slackers; Baby Boomers may see them as rude, slackers, and spending too much time on the internet; Millenials may see them as depressed.

Millenials (born between 1980 and 2000) grew up with home computers, helicopter parents, and organized play.  They value optimism, civic duty, sociability, and street smarts.  Veterans may see them as well-mannered but soft; Boomers may see them as undisciplined and needing too much attention; Generation X may see them as self-absorbed.

Source: Generations At Work Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in Your Workplace by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines, and Bob Filipczak published by AMACOM American Management Association

USEFUL LINKS: (for information only: with the exception of Birkman International, I do not endorse these organizations)

* Birkman Interational, Inc. White Papers:

To Order Generations At Work from Chapters/Indigo:

AARP Leading a Multigenerational Workforce:

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