There is a vast amount of chatter on the internet about generational gaps and specifically about millennials and the workplace. Studies show a revealing pattern in each generation on how they are motivated. These are generalizations and not scientific statements or even meant to be a comprehensive summarization. These are observations I make from my experience in ministry and the workplace. I also started at Boomers, simply because of the current workforce and to expose a first level of generational differences. Each generation has a set of core values and motivators that are not necessarily wrong or right, but they exist.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964) went to work for long hours, did what they were told, respected authority, played politics well and stayed in their respective careers for a long time. This generation saw the first major rise in divorce, infidelity and the single parent home. They raised kids by passive example versus a hands-on approach (again, generalization), showing what it meant to work hard, ignore struggles and keep busy.

Generation X (1965-1976) was a product of the Baby Boomers (0f course). Gen Xers are much more educated than previous generations; they value their use of time over any other workplace ethic, and responsible for the shrinking of the population since having 1.4 kids per family belongs to them. They saw the pains of the Boomers who worked hard to get them a better life; they lacked quality time with parents. The correction was to make the workplace more efficient, create systems for faster and better response and motivated by time and performance. A Boomer sees performance as working (money and quantity), a Gen Xer sees performance in terms of success (money, time and quality). They raised kids with the approach of “everyone is a winner” and handed out trophies for just showing up. They spent time with their kids, fighting hard to increase education standards and made their kids feel special.

The Millenial generation or Gen Y (1977-1995) was a product of both Boomers and Gen X. Generations are changing faster now due to technological advancement. They grew up with much of life being taken care of for them, and they grew up faster because of TV, the internet and mobile devices. Parents no longer were the primary influence in the life of a child but the mix of teachers, online sources and TV took over the authority. Creativity is hard to assess, but millennials thrive in this arena. Since they got a trophy for just showing up, they have a sense of entitlement built into their lifestyles. This entitlement is not their fault as much as it is a product of overcorrections by Gen Xers. They are motivated by purpose and impact more than time, money, or quantity of performance. They now make up the largest portion of the workforce in the United Sates.

Boomers and Gen Xers get frustrated with Millenials because they often misunderstand them. No given generation is lost in some way simply because they are different than the previous. Yet workplace discussions, seminar lobbies, and forums online are filled with nostalgia of how it was done, and now it is all going downhill.

Gen Z or Centennials (1996 and forward) are product of Gen X and Millennials and are inundated with media and trends. They find value in causes, have little patience for rules that have no meaning, live life based on emotional investment. There is still ongoing research on how they will impact the workplace and family, but there is a push for organic community.

I am a millennial by definition, but I can relate to Gen Xers as well. A millennial does not do something just because someone said it is to be done. They do something because it means something, that the systems, tasks and processes are not only tested but constantly tested and improved. Gen Xers want to know their calendar is being valued and not just having meetings because that is the way it is done. They want to know that both Boomers and Millennials respect them as a person. Millennials want to know that you connect with their emotional quotient and that they are setup to make an impact.

I watched this great video at the bottom of my post, and it challenged me as a leader and supervisor. We can complain about other generations and what is lacking, or we can become better leaders by taking the time to understand the intersections that are involved in generational leadership.