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From Traditionalists to Millennials: How to Manage Four Generations

- June 15, 2010 - 1 Comment

Is managing a Generation-X employee the same as managing a Baby Boomer? What motivates Generation Y employees?

These are questions Lynn Lancaster probably gets all the time. She’s the author of “When Generations Collide” and a co-founder of BridgeWorks, a company that advises companies on ways to bridge generation gaps at work. She spoke to partners at Partner Summit about the four generations currently in the workforce:

Keep reading for descriptions of each generation, learn what motivates them, and find out Lancaster’s tips for managing all four groups:

Traditionalists were born prior to 1946. Their goal is to share their knowledge and history. As parents, they did all they could to ensure their children had it better than they did. Make sure to glean as much from this generation before they leave the workforce.

Baby Boomers, born 1946-64, are what Lancaster calls a “generation in motion.” They are the best-educated generation in history because their Traditionalist parents put aside every penny they had. The number one reason Baby Boomers stay in a job is to make an impact, take on big things, and shake things up.

Those in Generation X were born in 1965-81. They’re constantly asking, “Where am I going?” They want to be noticed, developed, contribute ideas, and give input. Though Lancaster says that Baby Boomers have challenges delegating, when they leave the workforce, Gen Xers must step up and already be groomed for leadership. 

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, were born in the years 1982-2000. If they had a mantra, it would be, “Keep me in the loop.” They are great at collaborating and have a can-do spirit. They want to be part of action from day one and make an impact.

Lancaster’s top tips for managing the four generations are:

  • Create opportunities for cross-mentoring
  • Hold crucial conversations with Boomers
  • Pay attention to Gen Xers; groom them to step up, take good care of them so they stay
  • Keep Millennials in the loop—about the company and their careers.


Though, when it comes down to it, Lancaster points out that all generations want the same thing: a job they care about, to work for an interesting company, and to enjoy the people they work with.

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  1. Shaking things up.Guess what generation I'm from?Sincerely,Brad Reese