5 Generations in the Workplace: Who Are They?

5 Generations in the Workplace

For the first time ever, there are now 5 unique generations in the workplace. This comes with a vast array of challenges, especially when it comes to communication. These 5 generations are:

Traditionalists (born before 1946)

Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976)

Generation Y/Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997)

Generation Z (born after 1997)


Why is This a First?

Longer Lifespans

Due to advances in medicine and quality of life, people are living longer than ever. In the U.S., the average life expectancy is 81 years for women and 76 years for men, an all-time high. This means that not only are more generations than ever interacting in the workplace, but more generations than ever are alive and interacting in social situations as well.

Later Retirement

Again, because of these longer lifespans and advances in medicine and technology, people are feeling better, longer, and staving off retirement for more years than ever.  According to Gallup, Americans’ projected age of retirement has stabilized between 65 and 67, but 41% of non-retirees plan to retire at age 66 or older – that’s the highest percentage yet, and sits in stark contrast to the less than 30% of non-retirees who wanted to wait until after age 65 to retire prior to 2004.

Entering the Workforce Younger

Lately, there’s been a shift away from a full college education for many young people. According to an article by Brookings, there are 8 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who have entered the workforce with either some college or just a high school diploma.  


Advances in technology have accommodated alternative work situations, such as remote work, allowing people to work longer without having to travel or commute on a daily basis. Technology makes it easier for retired people to make extra money and supplement their retirement income by doing internet work at home, driving for Uber or Lyft, or working for a number of delivery services.

Who are the 5 Generations in the Workplace?

Traditionalists (born before 1946)

The Traditionalist Generation, also known as The Silent Generation, Veterans, and The Greatest Generation, is made up of the people who survived the Great Depression, brought us out of World War II, and saw the United States become one of the great world powers.  Their lives are built on tough times, sacrifice, and hard work, and they are the most distant generation from our modern technology. You may know a few famous people from the Traditionalist Generation: Robert De Niro, Mick Jagger, and Martha Stewart are all from this age group.

Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)

Baby Boomers, the generation born at the end of WWII and at the beginning of an extremely positive economic shift in the United States, also value hard work above all. However, these individuals see hard work as the road to not just survival, but accomplishing their dreams. Baby Boomers saw the advent of the women’s movement, the birth of consumerism, television, and credit cards, and the departure to the counter-culture of the 1960s

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976)

Generation X was a departure from their parents due to an economic downshift and the disassembly of the family unit. For the first time, parents were having fewer children, many marriages were ending in divorce, kids were being raised by single parents, and children were – for the most part – responsible for themselves. The negative economic turn meant that even two-parent households required a dual income to survive, so Baby Boomers went to work. Gen X kids found themselves free to roam, play outside ,and make decisions of their own. This fiercely independent generation also saw the proliferation of violence and dishonesty on many scales, from the Watergate Scandal to Enron to the Rodney King Beating and the first kidnapped kids seen on the side of milk cartons.

Generation Y/Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997)

Generation Y, more commonly known as Millennials, often get a negative reputation for their reliance on technology and inability to communicate in the workplace. However, Millennials are an extremely social group, but the ways in which they communicate are different from the traditional, as Millennials treasure uniqueness and individuality more than any generation in the past. Millennials value a challenge, want to make an impact, and are flexible enough to adapt to the constantly changing, fast-paced world around them.

Generation Z (born after 1997)

Generation Z, the newest generation to come of age and enter the workforce, are true digital natives. Their world has never been without WiFi, smart phones, social media, and YouTube. Their world is flat, as technology allows for constant, reliable communication with anyone, anywhere. They’re not afraid of new technology, and their learning curve on new devices and tech is nonexistent, partially thanks to their immediate deferral to look up how to do just about anything on YouTube. However, Gen Z has also grown up in a world that has never been safe, rife with school shootings and acts of international and domestic terrorism.

Why Do These Generations Conflict?

The five generations that are in the workplace span more than 75 years of time in age. Their values, independence, proficiency with technology, and ways of communicating are vastly different from generation to generation. Imagine a Gen Z individual and someone from the Traditionalist generation trying to come up with a plan to finish a project. Of course their opinions will differ on the best way to get things done. The Gen Z person highly values their ability to individually contribute to the project, while the Traditionalist is highly collaborative and working for the good of all.

How Can Your Company Harmonize Them?

Change How You Think About a Multi-Generational Workplace

If you think of a multi-generational workplace as a hindrance instead of an asset, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. Understanding the positives that the 5 generations can bring to your company is a great first step on the path to being able to harmonize them.

Strive to Understand the Values of Each Generation in the Workplace

Understanding what drives each generation and what values are closest to their cores will help you develop a workplace where everyone feels motivated and welcomed. Creating a workspace that speaks to each age group individually ensures a comfortable, stable work environment.

Avoid Generalizations based on Generation

Sure, there are descriptions and generally accepted personas for each generation, just like the ones we’ve written above. However, that does not mean that every person from every age group falls into the generalization of how or what their age group is. People are individuals, and should be evaluated and treated as such.

Encourage Inter-Generational Curiosity

One of the great pillars of good communication is genuine curiosity. When each age group understands that they can learn from their interactions with the others, a tremendous amount of growth can happen as a team. Gen Y and Gen Z individuals who use genuine curiosity to understand an older set of values or derive lessons from the experience of others  will carry that knowledge as they become the leadership of the company. Instilling genuine curiosity as a value in your employees will also help them tenfold to create meaningful, lasting relationships outside of the workplace.

Invest in Face-to-Face Business Communication Coaching

Sometimes, investing in third-party communication coaching  is the most helpful thing you can do for your multi-generational employees and for your company. For instance, taking your team through the curriculum offered by Future Image Group will put your company on the cutting edge – helping the newest generations in your workplace understand the value of cultivating real relationships and helping the oldest generations in your workplace reframe how they think about communication overall.

Investing in FIG is investing in your company’s future, as you’re developing the next generation of leaders that will carry on your legacy. Interested in learning more?  Get in touch today!