How to Manage Different Generations in the Workplace
Interviews / Opinions

How to Manage Different Generations in the Workplace

, Content Marketing Manager

“Variety is the spice of life.”

In terms of work, it’d be fair to say that diversity is a fuel for innovation and growth.

Diversity can come in many forms, but for this post, we’ll focus on age. Generational differences in the workplace are often talked about using stereotypes. However, in the workplace, age is more than just a number.

For the first time in history, there are 5 generations in the workplace. Each brings its own perspectives, strengths, and challenges.

While diversity can enrich a workplace, it can lead to miscommunication and conflict if not managed properly. Knowing how to manage these different generations at work is key to building strategies that bring out the best in your multi-generational team.

How to Manage Different Generations in the Workplace

What are the 5 generations in the workplace?

The 5 generations in the workplace are traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X (Gen X), millennials, and Generation Z (Gen Z). The exact years and the characteristics ascribed to each group may vary depending on what source you use. However, according to a Beresford Research report, here’s a quick breakdown before we get to managing them:


The first generation, also known as the Silent Generation, is made up of people born between 1928 and 1945. The Great Depression and World War II hit this generation hard and shaped their values, actions, and views of life.

They tend to have a more conservative approach to life (and work), which has made them prioritize their pursuit of a solid career in relation to a work-life balance.

Traditionalists make up the smallest portion of today’s workforce, occupying senior-level positions, or part-time consultancy roles.

Baby boomers

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, represent a large portion of the world’s population. The parents of baby boomers likely gave birth to many children because of the positive economic outlook that came after World War II.

Baby boomers have lots of work experience and are quite dedicated to their fields. On average, they’ve held 12 different jobs throughout their careers. Half of those jobs came after the age of 24.

Hundreds of thousands of baby boomers retired during the pandemic, opening up job opportunities for other generations in the workplace.

However, this generation is one that views work as a lifelong commitment. Looking at the stats, we see that by 2030, this generation (who will be over 75 years of age at that time) will make up 12% of the workforce. That is a 5% increase compared to the stats reported in 2000.

Gen X

Gen X was born between 1965 and 1980. They were known as “latchkey kids” during their childhoods and are well-known for being independent.

One reason for this independent spirit is that they were brought up when more women left their traditional roles at home to enter the workforce. This meant many kids were left to care for themselves after school until both parents finished work.

Since they are highly independent, they take pride in their entrepreneurial spirit.

Millennials or Generation Y (Gen Y)

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, grew up before the internet and computers became mainstream. That’d change when they started their professional careers. During the early 2000s, technology greatly affected how everyone worked and opened up new career paths.

For example, ‌previous generations in the workplace had to do a lot of face-to-face networking. The modern workplace, however, introduced the frequent use of digital tools, and millennials were some of the earliest adopters. Consequently, they had more opportunities to find work or to switch careers.

But that wouldn’t last long. Millennials would soon face many economic challenges. The Great Recession of 2008 created a volatile job market, and many were stuck with high student loan debt. These challenges influenced their financial stability and closed off some career development opportunities.

Gen Z

Gen Z, also called “iGen”, represents the newest working generation, born between 1997 and 2012. They comprise more than 25% of the American population and are the most diverse generation in history.

Gen Zers are digital natives who have come of age alongside cell phones and social media. They tend to be adaptable to changing technology and have a global sense of perspective.

Gen Z’s broad and innovative thinking can benefit many organizations.

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Managing different generations in the workplace according to their work ethic

​​Each generation possesses distinct characteristics. Managing them all calls for a deeper understanding of what work ethics drive them, as well as the best practices for managing them.

1. Traditionalists

In 2023, there were more people over the age of 75 in the workforce than ever before. Although they make up a smaller percentage of the workforce, many choose to continue and use their vast knowledge and skills. One of the best ways for them to do this is by serving on boards or mentoring others.

Traditionalists’ values and work ethic. They:

  • Appreciate loyalty, respect, and discipline.
  • Look for long-term job stability.
  • Are committed team players.
  • Value well-defined role requirements.

Best practices for management:

  1. Use recognition and inclusivity to ignite engagement.
  2. Support a traditional working pattern.
  3. Give them opportunities to work offline and in-person with their peers.

2. Baby boomers

Baby boomers make up a small piece of the current workforce. Although many have already reached retirement age, tons of them still wish to continue working. They carry a wealth of experience, helping to position them as valuable mentors for younger workers.

In the coming years, we may witness a shift towards fewer working hours for this generation.

Baby boomers’ values and work ethic. They:

  • Like a traditional workplace and mindset.
  • Respect a clear chain of command.
  • Respond well to recognition, rewards, and opportunities to develop.
  • Prefer higher-level positions where they can teach.

Best practices for management:

  1. Use incentives such as bonuses and chances for professional growth.
  2. Since many are getting close to retirement age, managers can offer reduced schedules, work-from-home (WFH) options, and more flexible hours.
  3. Another good idea is to guide them to work as mentors or coaches.

3. Generation X

Gen X has a different approach to work compared to older generations. They have a strong work ethic like the generations before them, but they value flexibility and adaptability.

Gen X’s values and work ethic. They:

  • Are avid supporters of Independence and personal growth.
  • Prioritize a healthy work-life balance and flexible hours.
  • Place importance on monetary rewards like bonuses and stock options.
  • Enjoy friendly, flexible, and productive workplaces over long hours.
  • Prefer hybrid or remote positions.

Best practices for management:

  1. Managers can offer flexible work arrangements to support a healthy work-life balance.
  2. Effective personal development efforts can help motivate them.
  3. Wellness policies can help engage this demographic.
  4. Give them the freedom to do their work without micromanaging them.

4. Millennials

Millennials are tricky to manage because they are divided. The older millennials entered the working stage when the job market overflowed, and the global economy was still strong. Because of this, they seem to do well in dynamic yet structured work environments.

Late millennials, now in their early thirties, entered the workforce during the onset of the Great Recession. As a result, they’ve faced tough challenges, including massive student loan debt, rising living costs, and global crises. Financial stability and job security are understandably key incentives for them.

Millennials’ values and work ethic. They:

  • Seek purpose and fulfillment in their work over financial gain.
  • Value sustainability, work-life balance, and a sense of belonging in their careers.
  • Lean on technology to make both their work and life easier.
  • Enjoy growing their skills and opportunities for career development.

Best practices for management:

  1. Offer ​​millennials job security and employee benefits such as healthcare, tuition assistance, and wellness programs.
  2. Supplement that with personal development strategies so that ‌managers can engage them through skills mentorship and regular feedback.
  3. ​​To avoid burnout, give them the freedom to manage schedules, work remotely, and find time for self-care.

5. Gen Z

In 2015, the first members of Gen Z entered the workforce. They tend to be self-sufficient, entrepreneurial, and competitive.

Gen Z works best with businesses that have initiatives in place for sustainable and socially responsible practices.

Gen Z’s values and work ethic. They:

  • Often yearn for personal connections with their peers.
  • Believe trust and respect are earned and not demanded.
  • Prioritize mental health and a positive work culture.
  • Seek non-traditional work schedules and flexible, remote work opportunities.
  • Are more prone to quit if they are not satisfied with their role or company.

Best practices for management:

  • Gen Z generally looks for authenticity, truth, and connectivity from managers, which they can receive with a servant leadership style.
  • Offer them hybrid or remote working positions.
  • Invest in their growth and offer them mentorship, coaching, and training opportunities.
  • Give them the opportunity to pursue personal or social ventures such as charity events, missions, or community projects.

How to bridge the generational gap

It’s common for diverse generations at work to feel like they are worlds apart due to their differences. However, just like any other form of diversity, you can use it to your advantage with the right strategies.

1. Invest time in training

Training helps ‌bridge many diversity gaps, and age groups are no different.

Each generation has valuable knowledge to offer one another, which is a strength you can lean on. The baby boomer generation can share their expertise in industry or job-related qualities, while Gen Z can contribute to promoting greater diversity and inclusivity.

Encourage cross-generational sharing of skills and expertise through horizontal communication training sessions. It nurtures an open learning environment and demonstrates to your employees that their contribution matters.

You should also consider the training methods that appeal to the different generations. For example, newer generations are more tech-savvy, thus, digital learning experiences are more engaging for them. While, older generations tend to better learn more effectively through lecture-based trainings.

Bridge the gap by using a learning management system (LMS) that incorporates diverse training methods. From instructor-led training or self-paced courses to blended learning, you can customize their experience, as well as, track their progress at every step.

2. Use open communication styles

Open communication is when people feel free to share their thoughts and feelings with each other. It means listening to each other and trying to understand other people’s points of view.

A good place to start with open communication is to evaluate your current communication styles. You can ask team members from each of the generations in the workplace about their preferred ways to communicate so that you better engage with them. Finding a few styles that suit everyone can prevent miscommunication or disengagement.

For example, someone who’s introverted (like Gen X and Gen Y) might not feel comfortable expressing themselves in group settings. If they ask for more one-on-ones, you can create a schedule for them and those interested.

To spark opportunities for generational dialogue, you can pair younger employees with a more seasoned mentor. In many cases, you can ask the mentor to groom the mentee to take over their position. Let’s say you pair a new writer with a senior editor for a few years. Once the senior editor retires, the writer can naturally glide into the role.

Another strategy is to maintain an open-door policy where people feel comfortable expressing concerns or frustrations. Doing this can also build empathy against generational conflicts, since you champion role transparency and welcome open communication.

3. Rethink benefits

​​The benefits that matter most to workers can change as they grow older. To give everyone what they need, it’s a good idea to gather employee feedback with surveys and in-depth interviews.

You can also change your benefits policies to reflect the diverse needs of multiple generations in the workplace. For example, offer flexible schedules to accommodate family obligations or social causes.

Pilot a few nontraditional benefits to find out what resonates with all the generations in the workplace. You could pilot a wellness program that offers subscriptions to meditation apps or fitness classes with a small focus group of people from each generation.

4. Foster recognition and inclusion

Each of the 5 generations in the workplace has its own unique experiences that influence their work styles and values. It might be challenging for them all to align on these styles or values, given their diversity. However, you can leverage their commonalities and find ways to plant seeds in their minds. This will help bridge gaps between them and make them feel included.

For example, baby boomers might be more traditional than millennials or Gen Zs. However, if it’s one thing that the different generations have in common, it’s the need for appreciation and recognition. Therefore, make sure to cater to this need for every generation in a way that they will acknowledge. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Unique as they are in the workplace, it’s important to understand that they are going through different life stages, like starting a family or planning to retire. This means that their needs will differ. Being proactive and accommodating their new circumstances or transitions will help them feel valued and respected. Also, sharing and celebrating their life achievements will help foster more recognition and inclusion within your team.

Some ideas you can use to build a more inclusive team:

  • Team-building activities
  • Pairing employees together
  • Using an upward communication style
  • Focus on strengths instead of weaknesses
  • Find common ground

How different generations can coexist and prosper in the workplace

While a multi generational workforce can lead to innovation and growth, it can also cause tension between employees. Workplace tension can often hold employees back from their full potential and create a toxic work environment.

To combat this, do the following:

  • Focus on common ground. Everyone strives to do meaningful work and be valued for their contributions, which is a shared goal you can use to help unite the team.
  • Ask questions instead of making assumptions. Get to know all the coworkers as individuals by asking them questions instead of making assumptions.
  • Communicate across styles. Adapt your communication approach to suit the preferences of the person you are conversing with.
    Share knowledge: Get those who have years of experience or tons of technical experience to guide those (up-and-coming) similar positions or younger generations in the workplace.


All the diverse generations and perspectives in the modern workforce are like potting soil for innovation and growth. However, this diversity can also lead to conflict, which requires a collaborative effort to overcome.

While some generational differences in the workplace lead to conflict, common ground can also be found. At its core, every generation wants to do meaningful work and to feel valued. If you can identify these shared goals and values, you can use it as a lightweight way to bring them together. And be an inspiring leader and advocate for them.

Aligning multiple generations in the workplace on values and goals might solve many problems, but taking it to the next level is like adding extra nutrients to your potting soil. Developing open-ended communication and talent-building strategies helps to do more than just bridge the gap. It opens up the door for more creative solutions and a self-sufficient team that truly works in unison.

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Marialena Kanaki - Content Marketing Manager

Marialena hates talking about herself in the third person. She loves to inspire people with authenticity. And she prioritizes that in all her content—without the need for smoke and mirrors.

Marialena Kanaki LinkedIn

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