Traditionals, Boomers, X, and Y Are People Too

There is a debate raging as to whether all this talk about the different generations is evidence-based or mostly media-driven simplistic categorizing. A recent article in People & Strategy Journal reports on a thorough study done of the peer-reviewed literature on generational differences in two areas:

  1. Career Management and Organizational Loyalty
  2. Work-related Values and Attitudes

Here is their conclusion:

“In sum, our review of 26 peer-reviewed studies found few consistent differences among the generations in the workplace. Only eight of those studies reported some support for generational differences; 18 did not.”

Probing deeper into the eight possibly promising pieces of research, they concluded that none supported differences across all four generational cohorts, some looked only at certain regions or industries, and all were lacking in a sufficiently high “degree of scientific rigor.”

So, should managers try to adjust their style when dealing with boomers vs. Gen X & Gen Y? Well, the report suggested that we be on guard for our perceptions of differences (we all are influenced by the popular media).

My cut on this is that, while growing up in different decades can influence what we are good at, how we function in daily life, and what we learn in school, the main thing is we are all human beings–physically, culturally and emotionally. No matter their age, employees struggle with the archetypal human issues of fear, fitting in, power & influence, being valued, and having what they do at work matter.

So, dear bosses, by all means use different communication technology vehicles and chunk your message differently for the different age groups and listen for their different motivators. But lead them, delegate to them, challenge them, give them tough feedback, develop them and respect them in the same way.

© 2011 – 2016, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.

Ian Cook About Ian Cook

Ian Cook, presenter and consultant, works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To book Ian for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail: For more articles and book reviews of interest to managers please go to: