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Generational Differences & Communication. At Work, Home & Play. Learning Objectives. Identify four generations in the workplace, and define them by experiences and events. Compare and contrast the values and the potential outcomes of generational interaction.

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learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Identify four generations in the workplace, and define them by experiences and events.
  • Compare and contrast the values and the potential outcomes of generational interaction.
  • Consider and identify potential problems for an organization when people from different generations fail to communicate effectively.
  • Compare and identify differing feedback styles and their impact.
  • Offer strategies for effective cross generational communication.
generations at work
Generations at Work
  • The events and conditions each of us experience during our formative years help define who we are and how we view the world.
  • The generation we grow up in is just one of the influences on adult behavior.
why learn about the generations
Why Learn About The Generations?
  • Changing demographics
  • Better understand it’s impact in the workplace
  • Increase the personal competency in communication and management
  • Promote teamwork
diversity a broad scope
Diversity….a Broad Scope
  • Diversity is sometimes defined as differences between individuals
  • Part of our focus in a given situation or interaction depends on who we are
  • Generational differences are one aspect of diversity
  • Matures Born Prior to 1946
  • Baby Boomers Born 1946-1964
  • Generation X Born 1965-1980
  • Nexters Born 1981-1995
think of the last time you heard comments like these
Think…Of the last time you heard comments like these…..
  • I remember when…….
  • Just do your job!
  • You are right, but I am the boss!
  • NO!
  • The kid wants a promotion after six months on the job
matures events experiences born prior to 1946
Matures Events & ExperiencesBorn Prior to 1946
  • Great Depression
  • New Deal
  • WW II
  • Korean War
  • Atomic Bomb
matures values
  • Hard Work
  • Frugal
  • Dedication & Sacrifice
  • Honor / Respect for Rules
  • Sacrifice

Leadership Style Direct, Command & Control

Communications Formal/memo, One on One

Interaction Individualist

Other No news is good news

Experience is respected

Education for many was a dream

Rotary Phones

Money—save and pay with cash

Family is traditional

other matures
Other Matures
  • Conservative somewhat dressy clothing
  • Neatly trimmed hair
  • Owns American Golf Clubs
  • Memories of Marx Brothers, Sinatra, Big Bands, Big Cars
  • TV included Ed Sullivan, Bonanza, Father Knows Best
  • Sex on the honeymoon
  • Heroes include FDR, Superman, Babe Ruth, Dimaggio, Patton, MacArthur
  • Memorabilia include Juke Boxes, Blondie, Lone Ranger, Charlie McCarthy
baby boomers events experiences
Baby BoomersEvents & Experiences
  • Civil Rights
  • Space Travel
  • Cold War
  • Sexual Revolution
  • Assassinations
baby boomer values
Baby Boomer Values
  • Optimism
  • Team Orientation
  • Personal Gratification
  • Involvement
  • Personal Growth
baby boomer
Baby Boomer

Leadership Style Consensual, Collegial

Interaction Team player, love to have meetings!

Communication In person

Other Love title recognition


You are valued and needed

Education is a birthright

Family begins disintegrating

Buy now, pay later


other baby boomer
Other Baby Boomer
  • May wear designer glasses, whatever is trendy
  • Longer Hair
  • Designer Suites
  • Memories of Smothers Brothers, Beatles, Lassie, Drive In, Mickey Mouse Club
  • TV includes Laugh In, Westerns, Lassie, Mod Squad, Carson, MASH, Sunday Night Disney
  • Sex in the back seat
  • Heroes include John and Jackie Kennedy, MLK, John Glenn, John Lennon, Gandi
  • Memorabilia includes fallout shelters, TV dinners, Hula Hoops, Peace Sign, Poodle Skirts,
generation x events experiences
Generation XEvents & Experiences
  • Fall of Berlin Wall
  • Women’s Liberation
  • Watergate
  • Energy Crisis
  • Cynical
generation x values
Generation X Values
  • Diversity
  • Techno Literacy
  • Fun & Informality
  • Self Reliance/Autonomy
  • Pragmatism
generation x
Generation X

Leadership Style Everyone is the same

Challenge others

Interaction Entrepreneur

Communications Direct


Other Freedom is the best reward

Latch Key Kids

Money cautious….save-save

Education is a way to get there

Sorry to interrupt,but how am I doing?

other generational x ers
Other Generational X’ers
  • May wear functional clothing, have tattoos, any style hair, naval or nose rings
  • Memories of Tonya Harding, Snoop Doggy Dog, Beavis & Butthead, Video Games
  • TV includes SNL, Friends, 90210, Cosby,
  • Sex “On the Internet”
  • Heroes include Michael Jordan, Ron Reagan, Magic Johnson
  • Memorabilia include Brady Bunch, Pet Rocks, Platform shoes, ET, The Simpsons, Sesame Street, Cabbage Patch Dolls
nexter values
Nexter Values
  • Optimistic
  • Civic Duty
  • Confident
  • Achievement Oriented
  • Respect for Diversity
  • Social
nexters events experiences
Nexters Events & Experiences
  • Oklahoma City
  • School Shootings
  • Technology
  • Clinton/Lewinsky
  • Conservative Values

Leadership Style






Voice mail

Cell phone

other nexter
Other Nexter
  • May wear Retro Clothing, Spiked , bleached or “in style” hair, Body Piercing
  • Pagers
  • Memories of Goo-Goo Dolls, Trench coat Mafia, 9-11
  • TV includes Dawson Creek, The WB, Malcom in the Middle, Who wants to be a Millionaire, That 70’s Show
  • Sex----Protected, Love waits
  • Heroes include NYPD/NYFD, Parents, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, Bill Gates, Mia Hamm, Tiger Woods
  • Memorabilia include, Barney, Teenage Mutant Turtles, American Girl Dolls, Spice Girls, X-Games, Oprah, Rosie
generation interaction
Generation Interaction

Matures and Boomers may have a tendency not to question or challenge authority or the status quo. This may cause confusion and resentment among the Xers and Nexters who have been taught to speak up.

generational interaction
Generational Interaction

Xers and Nexters who have had different life experiences and communicate with people differently, may fail to actively listen to Boomers and Matures, thereby missing valuable information and guidance.


The events and conditions each of us experience during our formative years help define who we are and how we view the world.



Which of the following most accurately identifies the four generations in the workplace.

Matures, Boomers, Xers, Generaltionalists

Boomers, Mature, Nexters and Socialists

Mature, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters

None of the above


Communication across the generations has no impact on tangible cost, (i.e. recruitment, hiring or retention).



Feedback styles are fairly consistent from one generation to the next.



Which of the following would you consider an accurate statement in managing intergenerational staff?

The most successful leaders find ways of letting different generations be heard.

Actively listening to staff that represent different generations causes confusion and is unproductive.

Managing generational differences means avoiding conflict by controlling the way people speak out.

None of the above

generational feedback
Generational Feedback

Feedback style and form can be impacted by generational differences

generational feedback31
Generational Feedback
  • Matures-“No news is good news”
  • Boomers-“Feedback once a year and lots of documentation”
  • Xers-“Sorry to interrupt, but how am I doing?”
  • Nexters-“Feedback whenever I want at the push of a button.”
feedback style and impact
Feedback Style and Impact
  • Feedback styles that may appear informative and helpful to one generation might seem formal and “preachy” to another.
  • Feedback an “Xer” thinks is immediate and honest can seem hasty or even inappropriate to other generations.
  • Some older generations have been told that there is a time and place for feedback. Younger generations haven’t necessarily been taught this “rule”.
generational meaning of feedback
Generational Meaning of Feedback
  • Matures seek no applause, but appreciate a subtle acknowledgement that they have made a difference.
  • Boomers are often giving feedback to others, but seldom receiving, especially positive feedback.
  • Xers need positive feedback to let them know they are on the right track
  • Nexters are use to praise and may mistake silence for disapproval. They need to know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.
valuing differences
Valuing Differences

Information flows in all directions in a learning organization. The most successful leaders find a way to let every generation be heard. They recognize that no one has all the answers. This appreciation of diversity allows each group to contribute and be a part of the growth of an organization.


You run a collectibles shop patronized primarily by those over sixty. Heather, your delightful new "twenty-something" counter clerk, has just shown up this morning with a shock of orange and purple hair on the left side of her head. What do you do?


You’ve discovered, over time, that the teenagers working for you can’t add, subtract or multiply to save their lives. A spot check of a recent inventory was so inaccurate that it will have to be re-done. The problem is that they don’t seem to care. How do you get them invested?


Your new assistant general manager is twenty-seven with a degree in business management. This summer, you’ve placed him in charge of the cadre of senior citizen volunteers who staff many parts of the theme park. A delegation of these volunteers came to you this morning, warning of an insurrection if he doesn’t treat them with more respect. What do you do?


You’ve just discovered that the new "kid" you hired to install a computer system in your three stores also installed a whole selection of games for employees to play when they’re bored. You brought the issue up in a staff meeting and they argued that they should be able to play the games as long as the work is done. At 59, you "know" that the work is never done. Now you’re faced with the unpopular task of uninstalling the games, but you don’t even know how.


Your best front desk staffer has just announced that she has the lead in a college production. She says she’s already worked the schedule out with the rest of those on front desk so that she won’t have to work weekends and evenings for the next six months. While you support what she’s doing, it may also open the way to a host of other exceptions. In addition, a couple of staffers have already groused about it. You’re beginning to wonder how she represented your feelings about her rearranging the schedule.


You are a project manager with many years of service. The "twenty-something" you hired seven months ago, graduated from college with a 3.95 GPA, but you just can’t get used to her blasé attitude about work. You’ve tried to set a good example by keeping her in the loop on every project and praising what she does, but she just smiles and says, "I know." It’s becoming increasingly apparent to you that she’s building experience in your division for the expressed purpose of taking it somewhere else as soon as possible.


Over the past three years, you have discovered that the quality of written communication leaving your department has deteriorated considerably. Last week, you caught another letter with poor grammar and incomplete thoughts on it’s way out the door. Two months ago, you received a letter one of your people had sent, returned in the mail. The recipient had edited it for spelling and grammar, in a red pen…………..


When you’ve mentioned this situation at a couple of staff meetings, it has been apparent that the staff doesn’t think there’s anything wrong. In one case, someone retorted, "We’re engineers, not English majors."


Two of your people are at each other’s throats most of the time. While they’re supposed to be collaborating on a project, their section of the department has developed into your own little soap opera. Roger, a 54-year-old engineer, is everybody’s idea of meticulous. While he is comfortable using computers, he has a tendency to revert back to the good old calculator when it comes time for the critical numbers…………


…..This makes his associate, Brad, nuts. Brad is a twenty-six-year-old engineer who trusts computers implicitly. Truth to tell, you’re not convinced that Brad understands the derivations of the calculations and may be hiding his ignorance by riding Roger about his meticulousness. Besides, Brad showed up at work with a small earring the other day and its obvious that he’s enjoying the impact it’s having on Roger.


To you, punctuality has always been a demonstration of respect within the workplace. But there doesn’t seem to be a person under thirty who shows up consistently on time. If you were to calculate all the missed time, it would number in the thousands of hours. Everybody keeps tells you to "lighten up", but with you, its an integrity issue. At 59, you’ve got three years to go, but it is still a real sticking point for you.


One of your co-workers is 20 years your junior. She is a bright, well-trained professional who entered your department six months ago from graduate school. While she can be warm and friendly, she also possesses a "take-no-prisoners" attitude when addressing certain issues. This has produced considerable friction within the department and headaches for you in dealing with those outside. When you've approached her about being more diplomatic in a particular situation, her response has been, "These people are in the wrong. Why is there a need for diplomacy?"


After a reorganization, you find yourself surrounded by those 30-35 years younger than you. While they work hard when on the job, what goes on in their leisure time dominates most conversations in the office. Your supervisor, someone 10 years your junior, does little to keep meetings on task and most degenerate into discussions of snowboarding, golf, cars, etc. Being a 35-year veteran of the organization, you feel a much stronger sense of duty and this lack of focus frustrates you no end.


You have been assigned as team leader of a department consisting of "twenty-somethings" and "sixty-somethings." It is no secret that those in their 60s are counting the days until retirement and are loath to go out on a limb. This "play it safe" attitude infuriates a couple of the younger workers who have threatened to leave if you don't do something to "address the situation." Being a 48-year-old with 20 years on the job, your feelings tend to side more with those close to retirement.


Your director is a by-the-book supervisor, 20 years your senior. Punching the clock and following strict doctrine appears to be consistently more important than getting the "right" job done. While she occasionally eases her grip on every action taken, she is sure to catch herself within the next week and clamp down on any decisions being made without first consulting the "book." Being a veteran yourself, you can understand her adherence to regulations. But her lack of flexibility has proven counterproductive more than once.


The new receptionist has yet to arrive on time for work. Her attire generally consists of cargo pants, a T-shirt and Doc Martens. She is constantly checking her pager for personal calls and gives you a "I'm doing my job so get out of my face" look whenever you glance her way. No one wants to deal with her and her attitude has become both a source of amusement and disgust within the organization. The person to confront her was quoted chapter and verse regarding the right of a person to wear anything they want to work. Now it's your turn as team leader.


Try as you might, you can’t seem to keep the twenty-somethings on your staff from playing computer games every chance they get. When the games were removed from the computers, they brought in hand-held devices and continued to play. They said that this was their way of combating "Big Brother.“……………


…………….It almost feels like they’re laughing at your seemingly anachronistic ways. With a shortage of engineers and technical people nationwide, you hesitate to say too much for fear that you’ll have an insurrection. When you’ve brought the situation to their attention, the collective response has been, "We’re getting the work done, aren’t we?"


You’re a 23-year-old engineer, fresh out of Cornell. Your supervisor is 58. He begins every other sentence with the words, "I remember." The problem is, you don’t care about the past. Your focus is on the future, and he keeps telling you to pay your dues. You took this job because it allows for the time you want to spend in competitive cycling. But the pace of this place is so slow, it’s going to drive you nuts!


At age 28, you are a brand new mother and have been with the organization for the past four years. You enjoy your job immensely and your supervisor has given you high marks all along. But balancing your work and the new baby is becoming an increasing struggle. Your husband makes enough money for you to go part-time or, perhaps, telecommute with reduced responsibilities and he has encouraged you do so………..


……….The problem is the organization does not have policies on either of these practices. When you've floated the idea with colleagues and your boss, they haven't been encouraging. You have to give up something soon, and it obviously won't be the baby.


Gary, a 22 year-old workstation technician whose arms are covered with tattoos, approaches his manager, a conservative, 30-year company veteran, with a computer issue he can’t solve. It is obvious to Gary that the manager seems more focused on judging Gary’s appearance than on helping him solve the problem…………


………..At the same time, the manager is thinking, "Who hired this kid anyway? The tattoos, alone, demonstrate that he doesn’t have a thoughtful bone in his body. My kids would never think of doing something like that. But we’ve got to get this server back on-line and I’m stuck with him." What steps can this manager take to do a more effective job of supervising and motivating Gary?


"I have had it with the 27-year-old twit I now work for," Charlie said to his wife. "I walked into her office today to discuss the system analysis she wanted me to do, but she had that tribal music going and I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying. When I asked her to turn it off, she did. But she looked at me like I was senile………..


……..I was working for this company when she was in diapers. "Then there’s that tongue stud in her mouth. How can you talk when that thing’s banging around on your teeth? She may be a bright kid, but she doesn’t have a clue how to work with us." What can Charlie do to foster this relationship? What parameters would you set around his supervisor’s management style?


"I want to support you. I really do," said the senior leader to his 28 year-old high tech protégé. "You can go a lot of places in this organization, but not if you show up to senior level strategy sessions in jeans and a polo shirt. We’re a coat and tie crowd. That’s our way of doing things.“………….


……………"I don’t need a tie to think," retorted his younger colleague. "Evaluate me on my work, not my appearance. I put in long hours and produce killer code, but I don’t do uniforms." How can this leader balance the attitudes and desires of this "highly employable" engineer and the protocol expected by his senior colleagues?


"Crystal, a new young hire in customer service, parties with her friends every Friday nite til early the next morning. She has been late, however, 3 of the 5 Saturdays she been asked to work. This morning, she showed up at 9:30 for a 8:00AM shift……………


………..When you approached her about the issue, she said, "What’s the big deal? If someone else was late, I’d cover for them. We get the work done and you’ve told me you like what I do. It’s not like I’m coming in drunk or something." Outline your approach for handling this situation. What specific words would you use to clearly establish your expectations, yet keep her invested in the job?


Can you please give these people a break?," asked the foreman. "This hazing is costing us good people.""We’re not hazing anybody," replied Tom, the senior lineman. "I’ve been here 17 years. These people have to pay their dues, just like the rest of us.""Maybe if you hire tougher people who can do the work, they’d stay," suggested one of his crew.""They may young, but they can do the job as well as you, retorted the foreman." How can you best respond to this manager’s attitude?


David Adams

Dean of Enrollment Management

1200 E Broadway

Columbia, MO