The Youngster of the Multigenerational Workforce

Generation-Y, Millennials, etc. have been the most studied generation in history.  The unique characteristics of this group of young people have been covered time and time again in educator and employer workshops.  Specifically, educators and employers have learned about the qualities of Gen-Y that make them both a challenge and a blessing to work with.

Gen-Y? That’s Probably You

sb298This blog isn’t going to go over Gen-Y’s characteristics. We’ve got Dan Schwabel for that! But here’s an article from that will show you what kind of information employers are being exposed to: Attracting the twentysomething worker, by Nadira A. Hira in May 2007.

Basically, Gen-Y likes to work in teams, needs feedback, wants to make a difference and sometimes expect the corner office at the end of their 90-day probationary period.  Employers and workplaces have been inundated with information about how to incorporate and even accomodate Gen – Y into the workforce.

Gen-Y vs. Everyone Else?

Not only do employers have to integrate the new expectations of Gen-Y, they have to manage the varying work habits of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Gen-X as well. Those are a lot of differences, perceptions and expectations to handle.

sb303What hasn’t been addressed is the importance of Gen-Y learning from and about their future co-workers, who may be from the generations that preceded them.

Students may enter their new job with certain expectations and preconceptions that will hinder their relationships with new colleagues. Just because the Vice President down the hall reminds a Gen-Y employee of a grandparent, or perceives  the VP to be old fashioned or intimidating, doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable lessons to be learned from seasoned business leaders that will positively impact a Millenial’s career for the better.

Gen-Y: How previous generations are different from you!

This is an amazing time and opportunity in workforce history! There are four different generations currently in the workforce:

The Traditionalists (aka The Silent Generation): They were born between 1927-1945 and experienced The Great Depression and World War II.  This generation is currently in their 60s, 70s and 80s and most have retired from the workforce, but there are a few still out there – especially those delaying retirement due to the current economy. Traditionalists are typically described as hardworking, loyal, submissive, traditional and challenged by technology.

How Gen-Y can relate to Traditionalists:

  • Don’t call them “Dude!”
  • Respect their time and be punctual.
  • Listen! This generation has seen dramatic changes in our country in their lifetime.  They have invaluable lessons to pass on. Respect their experience.
  • Be patient with their aversion to technology. Give them an opportunity to learn from you.

Baby Boomers: This is primarily the generation that raised Gen-Y. They were born between 1946-1964, and are now in their 40s and 50s.  They are currently considered to be the largest generation in the the workforce – until Gen-Y surpasses them.  Baby Boomers experienced The Civil Rights Movement, U.S. moon landing, the Cold War, Vietnam and the 1960s. They are described as work-centric, independent, goal-oriented and competitive.  This generation sacrificed the concept of “work-life balance” to get ahead in their careers.

How Gen-Y can relate to Baby Boomers

  • Ask a Baby Boomer to mentor you.
  • Follow through on what you say you will do.
  • Know that, just like you, they want to make a difference!
  • Express disagreement respectfully and with supporting information.
  • Network face-to-face with them.

Generation X: They were born between 1965-1980 and their numbers are significantly smaller than the Baby Boomer generation.  Gen-X’ers are more ethnically diverse and better educated than Baby Boomers. Significant events during the Gen-X lifetime include the introduction of the personal computer, massive corporate layoffs, the Challenger disaster and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  They are: self-reliant, independent, comfortable with technology, skeptical and flexible.

How Gen-Y can relate to Gen-X

  • Share new ideas and processes with them!
  • Expect them to be skeptical – so bring supporting information.
  • Be straightforward, but professional.
  • Make good use of timelines and deadlines. 
  • Discuss and introduce emerging forms of technology to them.

On a personal note regarding Generation-X: Do some research on music and movies from the 1980s & 1990s.  It’s traumatic when we have to explain who the performer or movie that “changed our life” is. Most Gen-X’ers will recall the original Scooby Doo, MTV and The Breakfast Club with fondness.  FYI – Gen-X still feels “young” despite the emergence of a younger group entering the workforce.

Homework: Links for generational information

The Multigenerational Workforce: Managing and Motivating Multiple Generations in the Legal Workplace

AARP: Leading a Multigenerational Workforce


Lanie James serves as Employer Development Coordinator for the Career Services office at Oklahoma State University, also known as . She holds both a B.A. in Journalism Broadcasting and a M.S. in Mass Communication from OSU. Her research emphasis focused on emerging and social media in Career Services. She also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Association of Colleges & Employers (@OkACE). Connect with Lanie on LinkedIn or Twitter @JLanie.

Related posts:

  1. How Millennial are You? Using Generational Knowledge to Generate Success

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