Tag Archives: workplace harmony

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Are Generational Differences Real?

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As a leadership and workforce generations expert I’m often asked, “Are generational differences real?” Actually, people don’t often ask, they just offer their opinion. What’s the scoop with this idea of generational differences being real or not real?

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Informally, without a survey or empirical evidence I would suggest that many supervisors, managers, and human resources team members are sold on the idea that generational differences are real. When it comes to the C-Suite my best guess is that only about one half of them are convinced.

Since I’ve researched, written about, and provided coaching and training on this subject for more than 10 years I’m compelled to offer my opinion.

Are Generational Differences Real?

Getting right to it, yes, they are real, but there are a few tricky elements connected to that reality.

One of the most common disconnects that I encounter is a lack of understanding about generational differences and differences based on age. Additionally, there are numerous other factors such as organizational culture, social economic conditions, family and espoused values, and geographic location.


Stereotyping is often problematic with generational differences. Differences in age, values, or beliefs might all be inappropriately targeted. Often we’ll hear things like millennials feel entitled, or baby boomers don’t like change, or generation Z (Gen 9/11, iGen) only wants to work part-time.

These are stereotypes and do not apply to all people who were born during a specific range of years. In addition, wrongful stereotyping might be the biggest cause of breakdowns in trust and respect.

Getting to the Root

Stereotyping, breakdowns in trust and respect; what is really the root cause of these problems? Most likely the problems originate in leadership styles, communication, and the product of both of those combined, organizational culture.

If you believe your workplace is suffering from generational differences, you must get to the root cause. Therefore, pointing out that differences exist is only a symptom of the problem. In most circumstances you’ll find the root cause buried somewhere in the organizational culture.

The Scoop

In conclusion, generational differences are real and in the simplest terms they are based on different values and beliefs.

Descriptors or characteristics often used to describe the attitudes, values, or beliefs of any given generation do not apply to everyone. They certainly apply to some, and likely to a majority, but definitely not to all.

You’ll probably find the solution for improvement exists in leadership styles and how they manage or embrace different values and beliefs. Communication and the ebb and flow of the culture will have a direct impact on the success of generational harmony.

So what do you think? Are generational differences real?


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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Generational Inclusion or Diversity?

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Organizations of all sizes are concerned about employee engagement and while some proclaim that employee engagement is a buzz phrase, others know from their own personal experiences that work is not about work / life balance, but more about life style. I’m not proclaiming a workaholic viewpoint, but I am suggesting that work and life crossover, perhaps more than many would like to admit. Those connecting with the  Dolly Parton song 9 to 5 may have to shift their thinking.

business woman with her staff in background at office

Generational differences are often labeled as problematic, and it is true that the traditionals and boomer communities may have a different agenda as compared to their younger counterparts. Through informal surveys I’ve discovered that much of the millennial population believes in common and shared effort across teams and organizations, which includes responsibility, accountability, and a good work ethic. Their need to compete is of less concern when compared with their need to matter, make a difference, or have a sense of purpose.

The concept of diversity may suggest division or being divided, when in reality what most organizations need is inclusion. When we think more about how to include the values and beliefs across all workplace generations we are making a conscious effort of inclusion. If we are not thinking about inclusion we may be focused on what is different and the result is segregation not engagement.

Recently I wrote about some of the myths associated with generational differences and age, and it is important not to confuse these two very different issues. So many organizations are trying to understand employee engagement and generational differences because they have realized that it is costing them in terms of both money and people, and they understand that closing this gap means unifying the team.

Societal trends may cause many working professionals, especially those that are representative of the more recent generations, to view their job as a contribution to both society and community. This also may lead them to consider their place of work and level of engagement as a life style choice, not just a job. Considering this, it may suggest that people join an organization for the life style. Shocking? Yes, to some, but it appears organizations that have this figured out also have better engagement and retention.

It often seems the generalized belief is that workplace harmony is created when the breadth of diversity is embraced. Perhaps today’s organizations should focus more on culture changes for inclusion, not diversity.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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