How to Manage Multiple Generations in the Workplace

2/16/2017 Brooke Thomas

We’re living in an unusual time when there is a wider range of ages working together than ever before. It’s typical to see three or four generations among the workplace at once, but for the first time we will see five generations in the workforce at once. People are living and working longer creating a phenomenon not just across the US, but across the globe. This makes it crucial for supervisors to understand multi-generational management.

Did you know that it’s more common to see someone younger supervising an older employee? This can result in an older employee questioning why someone with less experience is bossing them around. It can also lead to a younger employee feeling as though they’re not doing their job well. Scenarios like this can be avoided or quickly repaired if you recognize the needs and motivations of each generation and the unique skills they have to offer.


Here are a few ways to successfully manage a multi-generational office.

1. Understand your differences, but don’t linger on them:

Gen X may be impatiently waiting for the Silent Generation to retire. Baby Boomers may be irked by Gen Z’s inability to look away from their screens. And everyone is annoyed with the Millennial taking selfies in the bathroom (I’m a Millennial so I can say that). Understanding the people around us and knowing what motivates them gives us the ability to offer individuals what they need. Educate yourself and your staff on the differences of each generation, but don’t dwell on them for too long. Learn the values and expectations among every age group and adapt as they are identified.

2. Create multiple communication strategies:

Boomer and Silents likely prefer verbal communication while Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z employees may appreciate email or instant messaging. By creating multiple communication options you’re more likely to reach all of your employees, plus it increases the number of times you have communicated the message to them. Each generation has their own unique way of communicating and if each generation works to understand and respect this, it will eliminate potential hostility between employees of different ages.

3. Build cross generational mentoring opportunities:

Eliminate a competitive environment and build one of collaboration among generations. What the Millennial lacks in experience, they have in technical savviness. Silents and Boomers may not be tech savvy, but they have a plethora of experience and knowledge they can share about the industry and business. There are a vast array of skills among age groups. This should not be seen as a weakness, but rather as an opportunity to grow and strengthen your business. Each generation has something to teach and offer. Strategically place employees of all ages in positions to mentor and teach one another.

4. Create incentives based on where people are in life:

Gen-Z is fresh out of college and looking for new life experiences and opportunities. Millennials and Gen-X are seeking flexible schedules and higher wages as they take care of their families. Boomers and Silents want a flexible work/life balance and work that is interesting. These are all vastly different needs from an employer, but not impossible to meet. Ask your employees what’s important to them and what kind of work assignments they prefer. Once you know what’s most important to your staff, you can better divide and assign work and create incentive plans with your HR department.

With five generations working together in the office, it’s important to assess traditional management styles and consider other methods as well. Each generation has an array of strengths and weaknesses they bring to the table and with some well thought out strategies, you can be a leader that uses each generation’s strength to build each up and make your business better than ever.