Younger employee helping new employee

Do you have 20-somethings working alongside 60-somethings? Most companies do, and each generation has experienced different historical events and economic conditions, which can create communication difficulties and even occasional operational discord. Older workers have also experienced and done more than younger ones. As a result, generations often have different workplace attitudes about everything from company culture and business ethics to leadership and organizational hierarchy.

For example, according to some study results published on, ”Millennials are most likely to observe misconduct at work and fail to report it.” The study suggests that fewer Baby Boomers would turn a blind eye to any wrongdoing.

Naming the Generations

The birth years for the various generations have been defined differently by different social scientists, but here are the generation names and birth years according to Pew Research.

  • The Silent Generation -1928-45
  • Baby Boomers – 1946-64
  • Generation X -1965-80
  • Millennials- 1981-96
  • Generation Z- 1997-2012

Few members of The Silent Generation are still working, and most people from Generation Z are still too young to work, so most workforces predominantly include the other three generations listed, each with different life experiences and attitudes.

For example, Baby Boomers came of age during the Vietnam War, economic prosperity, and 1960s protests and demonstrations against the war and for women’s and civil rights. Many Gen Xers grew up with both parents working, which was unprecedented. During their childhoods, economics were unsettled by the oil crisis of the 70s. By the time Millennials came around, the economy was more global, terroristic attacks more frequent, and technology, including the birth of the internet, was exploding.

What was happening historically and culturally around each generation as they grew up influenced their attitudes about work and leadership. So, having a multigenerational workforce can be challenging.

Here are five strategies for overcoming conflicts and bridging gaps between the generations:

1. Create Mentoring

Mentoring programs have many advantages, and each generation has some things to teach and others to learn. In an article on the University of Massachusetts website, Sam Johns, a senior career counselor at Resume Genius describes what each has to offer.

“In terms of skills, Generation Z and Millennials have grown up alongside the technology we use daily today, which gives them a knack for innovation and ‘making things work’,” Johns says. “Meanwhile, Generation X and Baby Boomers started working prior to such technology, which can make them more gifted with interpersonal skills that help a company’s teams gel.”

Companies can pair younger workers with older ones when the latter need help understanding or using technology. In return, Baby Boomers and Gen-Zs can teach younger workers collaboration and interpersonal skills. Mentoring programs can be informal with no set time limits and formal reports or more structured with written goals and objectives.

2. Find Commonalities

While there may be some differences between a 50-year-old and a 25-year-old, the two may have a lot in common. Finding what connects people makes a huge difference in improving communications and building teamwork. People must spend time together on and off the job to find commonalities.

Companies that encourage camaraderie through company social and team building events and hobby or passion sharing helps individuals connect with people in other age ranges. For example, a company art exhibit might connect two photography enthusiasts or painters. During a team building seminar, two people may discover they think about collaboration similarly.

Some companies, like The MDC Group, try to hire people that will work well together regardless of age by utilizing the Predictive Index (PI). The Predictive Index evaluates applicants, measuring intelligence and various behavioral drives or work styles like formality, extravert/introvert, dominance, and patience. Companies use the information the index provides to find employees who fit well into their company culture.

3. Treat Everyone the Same

Every team member must be evaluated using the same scales and criteria. This concept may seem obvious but treating people from generations differently is more common than people think. For example, a 35-year-old manager may struggle to treat people their grandparents’ age the same way they do someone younger. They may expect more or let more slide. Conflict and resentment can follow when team members see others getting preferential treatment.

4. Identify the Different Management Styles

Team members from different generations may have different views on leadership and management. Understanding how individual team members prefer to work can help managers and team leaders communicate and inspire everyone. While there are no hard and fast rules for how individuals feel about leadership, there are some trends. For example, according to, Baby Boomers tend to think “leadership should be consensual and collegial.” Generation X thinks about leadership like: “competence is key, everyone is equal, asking why, and challenging others.” Millennials want leaders to be “achievers, coaches, and mentors.”

Each leader or manager should start by understanding their own attitudes toward leadership. Then by talking to team members and seeing how they react to an approach, they can learn more about how individuals view leadership. For example, one person may look for mentorship, another may prefer working with a team or partner, and another may want more autonomy. While a leader may not be able to change their leadership style completely, they can make small adjustments to motivate and support someone with a different preference.

5. Set Stretch Goals

As discussed above, each generation has different strengths and weaknesses. For example, older workers may not love technology, and younger ones may need more collaboration skills. Therefore, to help everyone to work more effectively towards the company and personal career goals, managers should set goals for incremental improvement in weak areas.

For example, when you hire a talented and experienced craftsperson with little computer experience, a simple thing like signing in and out on the company’s human resources system may be challenging. Filling out forms or keeping up with email might also be difficult. Managers should set small, reachable goals to improve the new hire’s technical skills.

At the other end of the spectrum, a twenty-something could prefer spending all day working independently on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. They may need help learning to work with a partner or doing an in-person presentation to a group. Assigning an older team member to partner on a small assignment could be a great first step.

While today’s companies have three generations working together, some may soon have four or more. That’s why learning about managing a multigenerational workforce is more important now than ever before.

Experience changes people. Experts talk about how different world events that happened while generations grew up have influenced their mindset and work attitudes. People also change and grow throughout their work years.

Either way, understanding how a 60-year-old employee’s priorities, beliefs, and qualities differ from those of a 25-year-old coworker can help a company leader manage their multigenerational workforce.


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