Does your workplace seem like a dysfunctional family reunion that keeps happening day after day after day? This may be in part due to four distinct generations of employees in your workplace, and the disconnect in values, priorities, and communication which can occur. This is the first time in American history that workplaces are struggling with four very different generations of employees working side-by-side.

Veterans, Baby-boomers, Generation X and Generation Y employees have very different approaches to money, careers, loyalty, and communication styles. Veterans think work is life, and don’t understand why everyone else seems to be in a hurry. They are generally very loyal to their employer and do not like change. Baby-boomers are retirement ready and probably under-funded in today’s economy. They are frustrated with younger employees who resemble too closely their own children, and their children’s friends.  Generation X is noted for being intense, insensitive to others, and in need of control. They are fearful about the future and know they will not be as successful as their parents. Generation Y wants everything now, and is not prepared for the world of work. They avoid conflict, criticism, and disappointment, having been accustomed to their parents (Baby-boomers) running interference for them for their entire lives.

Books have been written on the subject which can help employers recognize the inherent dysfunction between the generations, and try to turn it around to capitalize on the unique strengths of each of them. 

In the words of author Willa Cather “The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.” Willa Cather (1873-1947).

Tips to help employers address generational issues:

  • Recognize and acknowledge generational differences;
  • Ask questions of employees to help build teamwork and lead to better understanding;
  • Identify different motivations and values of employees; 
  • Train supervisors and staff on generational differences.
  • Understanding individual communication styles increases team building and cuts down on conflict with multiple generations in the work place.