Bridging the Generational Gap

Posted by Erin Hall

As a young person starting my career, I never thought I would work with someone from the Silent Generation. To be honest, I had never heard of the Silent Generation. But according to Rawn Shah, contributor for Forbes‘ Web site, we will soon have 5 generations collaborating in the workforce, and in the next few years Millennials will account for nearly half the employees in the world.

I am very much a Millennial, but I would also say I have some traits from Generation X. Generations are defined as all of the people born and living at about the same time. These people tend to have similar demographics and trends. Wondering how Millennial you are? Take this quiz by the Pew Research Center.

To help bridge some generational gaps in the work place, here’s a closer look at each so we can all get along a little bit better:

Silent Generation

  • Also known as Traditionalists, Veterans or Greatest Generation (My grandmothers would argue the latter)
  • Born between 1930 and 1942
  • Most have served in the military or married to someone who did
  • Strong work ethic
  • Respectful and practical

Baby Boomers

  • Born between 1943 and 1964
  • “Work-til-you-drop” work ethic
  • Retirement is the start of a career transition
  • Competitive and optimistic

Generation X

  • Born between 1965 and 1979
  • Grew up alone because both parents worked
  • 40% of their parents were divorced and/or lost their jobs in the 80s and 90s
  • Protective of family time
  • Independent and self-reliant


Author's photo (c) 2012

  • Also known as Generation Y
  • Born between 1980 and 2000
  • Most had jobs before leaving high school
  • Tech-savvy – never known a world without mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity
  • Interest in teamwork and multi-tasking

Generation Z

  • Born in or after 2001
  • Traditional values
  • Less likely to travel or work over seas
  • Loyal

When communicating with co-workers or future employers it is important to think about possible generation gaps. Millennials tend to expect instantaneous responses from e-mails, where Generation X or Baby Boomers may ponder on the message or finish what they’re working on before responding. And don’t think your Generation X co-worker isn’t a team player when they leave early from work. Most likely they’re dashing off to their children’s school functions and picking up the work-load on their own time.

A few reminders to my Millennial generation: Be professional when communicating with co-workers and future employers. Put down your iPhone, look and listen to the person talking to you. I know we grew up with this technology, but we were not born with it in our hands. In recent years, the greatest growth in social network and Web use is from our older generations. They are making the effort, so we should too.


2 responses to “Bridging the Generational Gap

  1. I’m curious what the workplace will look like when the Millenials take over as bosses. Do you think this will change the workplace dynamic? Or will traditional relationships and roles still remain consistent in years to come?

    • Millenials are familiar to changing and upgrading with new technology and I think this will make for a more efficient work place. Not to say that other generations are not good with technology, because they are, but some are afraid of change. I think roles and relationships will remain the same. We’ll still have superiors and administration to report to, but the dynamic may be faster paced and more efficient.

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