How To Manage The Age Gap In The Workplace

The Golden Girls is a really good show as is Gossip Girl. But if you mashed them together into one show, would it work? Would it be called Golden Gossip Girls? Would they all live in that condo in Florida? I imagine it would be very awkward and Dorothy would literally pass out from all the eye-rolling she would have to do because of Serena’s choices and fashion ensembles. Thank goodness no one ever decided to make this show but unfortunately, it is not that easy in real life. Today many managers and employees face managing multiple generations of employees.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are competitive and think workers should pay their dues, workplace consultants say. Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1977, are more likely to be skeptical and independent-minded. Gen Ys—also known as Millennials—were born in 1978 or later and like teamwork, feedback and technology. Jessie Newburn, an expert in generational differences, said:

“Of course there are common denominators and timeless values around work ethics, service to others and contributing to the bottom line. And there are generational differences in what is viewed as more valuable. Boomers (born 1942-1960) tend to lean toward vision, values and spiritual inquiry, so they often find important mission statements, big picture direction and the moral compass of their lives and that of the companies where they work. GenXers (born 1961-1981) tend to lean toward pragmatic, now-focused, results-oriented definitions of productivity. And Millennials (born 1982-2002ish and 29 at the top end of their generation) tend to lean toward collegial, collaborative, upbeat solutions. Individuals in all generations can and do value similar definitions of productivity, though there are gravitational centers for each generation.”

Though this would prove a difficult task for any manager there are a few good strategies to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use blanket policies: According to Shayla Ebsen, a full-time freelance writer and graphic designer with more than seven years combined experience from her time in the corporate world, you need to manage everyone as individuals when you are working with different generations. For example, if your generation Y workers are pushing for flexible working arrangements rather than the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, stop resisting and work with these individuals to meet their needs. Baby Boomers may favor more traditional and static training methods like Power Point presentations and handbooks, while younger workers may gravitate towards more interactive, technology-based forms of learning. Also, account for differences in each generations schedule. The Boomers may want to start cutting back their hours. Generation X’ers may have more work life balance issues and Millennials might need support in pertaining another degree to help them move up in their career.
  • Embrace diversity: Don’t segregate and have the young people only work with other young people. Show your employees what they can learn from eachother. According to The Wall Street Journal, facilitate mentoring between different aged employees to encourage more cross-generational interaction. Younger employees should learn to seek the experience and wisdom offered by senior employees. Older employees should learn to be open to the fresh perspectives offered by younger employees. Also implement training policies designed to educate employees on diversity issues. These training programs can help pinpoint where certain employees may be experiencing conflicts with older or younger coworkers, allowing them to view the situation in a new light.
  • Create recognition programs: Gen X appreciates a nice pat on the back or a small well done compliment while the Boomers may respond better to an office-wide memo that notifies them that they are meeting or exceeding their goals. Millennials will appreciate be given more responsibility and opportunities as a result of their hard work. Millennials also tend to prefer a higher frequency of employee reviews.
  • Promote a more flexible office: Offer different working options like telecommuting and working offsite. It is the results that are most important, not how they get to them. Telecommuting can also encourage Boomers nearing retirement to stay on staff longer since they will be more in control of their work.

Photo: Yuri Arcurs/

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