What’s Age Got to Do with It? How to Manage Across Generations

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes



The US workforce is made up of people from five different generations. At many companies, Millennials work alongside Baby Boomers.The good news is that diverse teams perform better, have greater understanding of their client base and are more innovative! The bad news is that managing across generations can cause conflict, if leaders don’t understand how to embrace and manage through differences.

Some tips to managing across generations:

1. Interrupt blindspots

We all have blindspots when it comes to generational stereotypes.

Millennials are lazy, Gen Xers are not ambitious, and Baby Boomers don’t like change.

While formative influence, which changes over time, can contribute to shaping a generation’s beliefs and values, putting emphasis on these stereotypes is both overrated and dangerous.

When we look at what people really want from their leaders and their work, we find much common ground:

  • A company they can be proud of
  • Working on challenging projects
  • Competitive compensation
  • Opportunities for advancement, and chances to learn and grow in their jobs
  • Honest, ethical, transparent leaders

2. Lead individuals, not groups

When it comes to inspiring human beings…what’s age got to do with it?


If you want to understand what motivates people, get some science!  Unbiased, scientifically validated behavioral assessments give leaders insight into what drives people, what they need, and how they prefer to communicate.

When you learn to tap into what drives people, you gain the power to inspire greatness.

3. Bridge the divide between generations

The best way to get people to understand each other is to create positive connections where they can gain perspective.

Some ideas to connect the generations to bridge the divide:

  • Let’s Talk Circles – encourage people to have coffee or lunch with someone of a different generation to get to know them.
  • Walk through generation exercises – create a safe space for generations to talk about their lives, formative influences, and their perspectives on matters of importance at work and in life.
  • Cross-generational mentorships – establish a culture that values everyone and perpetuates the message that “we can all learn from each other!” Reverse mentoring and reciprocal mentoring programs promote collaboration!

4. Create a workplace for all

Leading diverse teams, whether referencing different generations, or any diverse groups, will require leaders to apply these fundamental principles:

  • Create shared values and commitments
  • All decisions must be appropriate in external and internal environments; transparency is a must
  • Efforts must focus on what is necessary to accomplish the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy
  • Aspirations of each individual must be considered, as long as it is not to the detriment of others
  • Organizations must apply these fundamentals universally across groups

None of these tips work if you don’t have a culture that values open, honest, communication, starting with the top!   Employees respect and like honest, ethical, fair leaders who care about them.  Develop your leaders to foster open communication, while learning to celebrate differences in people!  After all, the real value in diversity comes from those differing perspectives!  Embrace them, don’t run from them!