Still Trying to Make Sense of the Generations in the Workplace?

Leaders can’t help but notice the flood of media coverage about Millennials demanding change in today’s workplace. Is it true they are impatient with advancement opportunities, feel entitled, and have a compelling need to be heard? Is it also true that Generation X-ers are dissatisfied with career growth opportunities and simply want to work independently (and ideally from home)? Or that Baby Boomers are all success-driven, recovering workaholics who want to wax poetic about “the way things used to be”? Despite the hype, remember that treating people as individuals, rather than as a generational stereotype, is a more productive approach.

Besides, are the generations really THAT different? Sure, we grew up during different times and are more likely to share a worldview with our chronological “cohorts,” but what about similarities? According to one recent report, we aren’t that different on some key workplace elements after all.

Apparently, generations in the workplace have much in common, placing emphasis on factors such as having a respected and trusted boss, achievement and accomplishment, growth and learning, interesting work, and fair treatment and respect.

Further, for those in leadership positions, you might be relieved to know that certain qualities rise to the surface as important, regardless of generation:

  • Inspiring trust and respect in others;
  • Finding ways to make work meaningful and interesting;
  • Being fair and respectful;
  • Supporting employees and offering a sense of achievement opportunity;
  • Providing opportunities to learn and grow.

Focusing on these key elements, which seem to span the workplace universally, is time well spent. As leaders, focusing on getting to know each direct report, their individual strengths, hopes, and weaknesses–not to mention what motivates them–can provide a “best practices” roadmap to mutual success.