The secret sauce you need to make sense of the different generations

The other generations are not “wrong”, they are just different!

I have found myself talking a lot in the last couple of weeks about the different generations and their different needs, expectations and ways of working. The first thing I found I needed to do was find some categorical information about who actually fits into each “Gen”. Here’s what I found. People born before 1945 are called Traditionalists or the silent generation. Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964 Generation X are those born between 1965 and 1976. Generation Y, also called Millennial, are those born between 1977 and 1995. The people born since 1996 are called Gen Z, or iGen or Centennials or Gen2020. The actual years vary depending on the source. Some for instance make Gen Y and Millennial two different groups . The actual years however are not important. What is important is the broad differences between the generations and the way it affects the workplace and also the community. Business Insider Australia  have published an excellent article on the differences from a study by EY and I have copied a small section here, but below it I comment on what it means for us all.

Generation Y / Millennials:

PROS: Members of Gen Y are believed to be the most tech-savvy (78% of respondents agree) who know how to use social media to leverage opportunities (70% of respondents agree). These younger workers are also regarded as being the most “enthusiastic” (68% of respondents agree) about their jobs. CONS: Gen Y-ers scored the lowest on being a “team player” (45%), “hardworking” (39%) and “a productive part of my organisation” (58%). PERKS: More Gen Y respondents wanted to know when and how they can get a promotion (13%) compared to Gen X-ers (5%) and Boomers (4%).

Generation X

PROS: Most of the respondents in the study (70%) believed that Gen X are the most effective managers compared to managers from the Boomer (25%) or Gen Y (5%) generation. Members of Gen X scored the highest when it comes to being a “revenue generator” (58% of respondents agree), possessing traits of “adaptability” (49% of respondents agree), “problem-solving” (57% of respondents agree) and “collaboration” (53% of respondents agree). CONS: Gen X-ers scored the lowest compared to other generations when it comes to displaying executive presence (28%) and being cost effective (34%). PERKS: Gen X respondents ranked workplace flexibility as the most important perk (21%) and are more likely to walk away from their current job if flexibility isn’t available (38% versus 33% of Gen Y and 25% of Boomers).

Baby Boomers

PROS: Baby Boomers ranked the highest when it comes to being a productive part of their organisations (69% of respondents agree), “hardworking” (73% of respondents agree), a “team player” (56% of respondents agree), and mentoring others (55%). CONS: On the other hand, Boomers ranked the lowest when it comes to being adaptable (10%) and collaborative. PERKS: Not surprisingly, Boomers (28%) identified benefits, such as health care and retirement, as the most important perk compared to Gen X (19%) and Gen Y (147%). Below is a chart illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of different generations in the workplace: Read more at

So what has this got to do with anything?

The answer to that question is that we all make our decisions based on our own background, experiences, knowledge, ways of working and our own biases. But that does not necessarily serve us if we want the best decision possible in any situation. If we are a sole decision maker and the decision itself only has an impact on us, then there’s nothing to consider or be concerned about. But if the decision involves other generations or impacts upon them , then that is a different matter. Most people, do not consciously look thought the lens of other people when they are making a decision. Most make their decision based on their own needs. But that can get us into hot water. I suggest that the wise thing to do, no matter what generation you are from, is to consider the needs and ways of working of the other generations who will be impacted or involved in the decision. It’s common for instance, for a Millennial person to want to become the “boss” a little more quickly than is realistic. So what can they do. In this example, the millennial needs to consider who it is who has the “power” to promote them – and that is likely to be a Gen X or a baby boomer. So the smart millennial will look at how the Gen X or baby boomer thinks and they way they make decisions – without judgement – and then play the game. Whoever sets the rules of the game, has the power so the smart thing to do is learn the rules and then plan a strategy. The same operates in reverse. If the baby boomer boss wants to get the best from their millennial staff member, then they need to understand how they work. They can complain until the proverbial cows come home about the way the millennials work but they are here to stay and they are not going away. They also have a huge amount to offer.

So What – the secret sauce?

Here’s the secret sauce. We all need to look for the strengths in the other generation – and every generation has its strengths. They also have their challenges. Learn the strengths and learn how to handle the challenges. If we can all harness the strengths of everyone, the results are limitless.

David runs programs for organisations especially for the younger generations:

What ambitious Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s need to do before their name is on the boss’s door

Contact David  for information – [email protected]


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