Boomers, X and Millennials. What does it all mean?

“The beauty of collaboration between older and younger generations is that we combine strength with wisdom”― Brett Harris

 downloadDuring some of our recent executive coaching sessions the question of generations has come up several times. “How are the various generations defined?”; “How do we understand their differences?”; and the most important question a leader can ask: “How do we cultivate their individual strengths?”. All very good and necessary questions as leaders increasingly wrestle with generational differences in the workplace.

Today we will define each generation and provide some background as “food for thought” with the help of a study published by EY, formerly Ernst & Young, which includes insights from more than 1,200 professionals across generations and industries about the strengths and weaknesses of workers from different generations, based on the perceptions of their peers.

Baby Boomers (1946—1964)

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are considered to be competitive and think that workers should “pay their dues”.  A generation of people born during the post WWII ‘Baby Boom’—hence their name—they experienced an unprecedented level of economic growth and prosperity throughout their lifetime. They grew up in a time of relative hardship, but thanks to education, government subsidies and technological advancements they have emerged as a successful and affluent generation. Many baby boomers are now settling into retirement, with many more luxuries and comforts in their golden years than experienced by generations before them.

PROS: Productive, hardworking, team players, great at mentoring others.

CONS: Have a hard time adaptable and collaborative.

Motivation: Good benefits, such as health care and retirement.


Generation X (1965—1977)

Entering the world between 1965 and 1977, Generation Xers are considered the entrepreneurial and skeptical of the lot. They lived through significant global political events such as the Vietnam War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and the Thatcher-era government in the UK. In many ways these events shaped the culture and upbringing of this generation and made them more open and embracing of diversity and differences such as religion, sexual orientation, class, race and ethnicity.

PROS: Adaptable, effective managers, revenue-generators, problem-solvers and collaborative.

CONS: Lack executive presence and fiscal responsibility.

Motivation: Workplace flexibility.


Generation Y a.k.a Millennials (1978—2000)

And last—but certainly not least—Generation X, more commonly known as Millennials, were born between 1978 and 2000. Millennials are best known for being open to feedback and, of course, being technologically savvy. This generation has been shaped by the technological revolution that occurred throughout their youth, and as a result they are online and connected to their gadgets 24/7, 365 days a year. In many ways, Millennials could be credited with the alternative work environment “movement”, as their independence and reliance on technology made them push for perks such as working remotely and creating their own work schedule as long as things get done.

PROS: Tech-savvy and enthusiastic.

CONS: Perceived as being too independent.

Motivation: Climbing the corporate ladder.

While demographics are generalisations and stereotypes that aim to understand overall trends, not specific situations, it is important for leaders not to stereotype and learn to understand and effectively manage the differences, values and expectations of each generation.

Do you agree with some of the perceptions associated with your generation? As a leader, do you manage a multi-generational group? What strategies do you use to manage the differences? Contribute to the conversation below and contact us if you need help working with your multi-generational team.

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