EAP Corner

Working with Multigenerational Workforces

In this age of longevity, people are living longer and working longer. This leads to multigenerational workforces becoming the norm. With this diversity, it sets up a need for increased understanding, flexibility and openness to merge and work together as a team. Differences show up in many areas, some of which include communication, approaches to working, how each view this/her “job” in general, values, and the needs each generation requires in their roles.

Realistically, workforces may now include traditionalists, baby boomers, generation Xers, nexters or generation Y and lastly, generation Z. For me, as a baby boomer, it is hard to even keep up with the next newest generation entering the workforce and what they bring to the table that is new and different from my own frame of reference. However, it is important to my business to understand the differences and how we need to flex in order to understand and connect with those with whom we work. We all have to take responsibility in learning how to communicate in a way that will be understood and be validating to others in our work environment. This ability impacts the work environment.

This will be a series of articles to focus on each work generation, the influencers, the core values, attributes and ethics and the preferred work environment.  Understanding the fundamental values within each of the different generations brings consideration of the differences that may arise. This can take us out of a place of judgment and labeling to a place of embracing what the generation contributes, thus utilizing each person’s uniqueness. Hopefully this will enhance the working and learning environment, making it more efficient and productive. Begin to identify the makeup of your workforce generations in your organization so you can use the gifts each brings to the team.

Here are the five generations we will be talking about and how they are categorized:

Traditionalists are people born before 1945 with some sources placing the earliest birth year 1922.

Baby boomers are people born between 1947 and 1965.

Generation Xers are people born between 1966 and 1977.

Nexters or generation Y (also called echo boomers or millennials) represent people born after 1978. These are the kids who were born in the age of technology, being hardwired with cyber know-how and working off the fact that information is fast moving and at our fingertips.

Generation Z are people born in 1995 or later. (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, 2018)

Our first generation and oldest one is the Traditionalists.

Although most are retired, the Traditionalist generation is the oldest generation in the workplace. This generation is known as the Silents, the veterans, and the greatest generation. This generation was influenced by the great depression and World War II. Raised by parents who had just survived the Great Depression, they experienced hard times while growing up, followed by times of prosperity. This may be why they are a generation considered conservative, disciplined and savers.

This group deals with money by saving and paying cash (delaying reward). Many may be considered hoarders as they like to hang onto their things as “you never  know when you might need it”. They believe that giving back is important and like to contribute to the collective good. Their family experience is a traditional nuclear family and they tend to be family focused.

Other Traditionalist core values include commitment to the company, being dedicated and sacrificing for the good of the whole. They tend to be confident, conservative, responsible, ethical and hardworking. Being respectful of authority and the rules of conduct, they trust in the hierarchy and authority, including trust in the government and adhering to rules, being conformers. They carry a sense of loyalty. Their attributes are sacrifice, strong self-denial work ethic and are task oriented.

These workers tend to feel like you pay your dues, consider age a seniority and put the company first. They prefer formality, whether written or in oral communication. They value formal dress and organization structures. They identify who they “are” through their job.

Some tips for communicating with Traditionalists include not expecting them to share their thoughts immediately (the silent generation), knowing that a word is his/her bond and you can trust what they say (so don’t read their body language). They prefer face-to-face or written communication. They also don’t like to waste time so being efficient when you communicate is essential. (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, 2018)

In essence, this group is considered among the most loyal workers and take a job with the idea of staying with the organization for the rest of their life. They meet deadlines, have a willingness to learn new things, get along with people, use computers and speak clearly and concisely. They like to take time to add personal touches, look for moments to socialize between assigned tasks and honor hard-work and symbolic stages with plaques. (Clayton, S., & Vargas, J, 2006) This generation definitely brings assets to your workforce and can bring efficiency and productivity to your team if you can appreciate their values and how they best operate in an organization.

Works Cited
Clayton, S., & Vargas, J. (2006, February 8). Generations at work. Retrieved from Work Life Solutions.

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association. (2018, March 8). www.honolulu.hawaii.edu/. Retrieved from Work Life Solutions.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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