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Generation X and Millennials in the Workplace

Posted by Lindsey Barnes on Jul 13, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, have been changing up the traditional work environment in recent years-- often for the best. Millennials and Gen X have been thrown into the workplace together, and with difference in age comes variation in work habits and skills. How are Millennials and Generation X managing together in the workplace? What are some of their work ethic differences? Let's take a look at some of the key similarities and differences between the two groups.


What are the general defining factors?

While it is hard to put an age group together and say that they're all the same, it helps to look at some of the general characteristics. Those of Generation X were born anywhere between 1965-1980, and millennials were born between 1980-1995. Those born in Generation X are known for being independent, raised with much less supervision and attention from their parents, and enjoy a work-life balance. Millennials are often seen as entitled, were often praised by their parents, highly tech savvy (since technology has been a part of their lives since birth), and always hungry for change. 

What are some of their work ethic differences?

To understand a little bit more about the work ethics between the two generations and how they operate together in a work environment, I spoke with a few millennials who have experience of working with Generation X in the workplace to gather some more information. Here are some of the areas where I saw the differences between the two groups as very distinguishable. 


  • Communication: Since the two generations grew up in separate times, their ways of communication are distinct from one another. Generation X-ers are very strict to their 9-5 work mentality, they work hard while at work, but don't necessarily like to be contacted on work phones after hours. Millennials are always plugged in. Whether that be on their smart phones on social media, on their iPads checking their e-mail or shooting them a text, they do not stray far from their devices. For work related meetings, Gen X greatly appreciates the value in face to face contact where as millennials are totally cool with an hour phone meeting without having to leave the office. 
  • Rule Following: By rule following I don't mean legitimately following and breaking rules, but rather challenging the status quo and how close or far one strays from tradition. In my conversations with millennials who worked with Gen X, I found that most of them reported that they felt they were more open to multi-tasking. Generation X-ers on the other hand aren't the biggest fans of multitasking, and tend to work independently. I have gathered from the millennials that Gen X tends to complete tasks by the book and see millennials as lazy if they try to find a quicker, more innovative way to complete a task. One interviewee said, "They [Gen X] are more focused on just getting the job done and done the traditional way, whereas the millennials I've worked with are constantly looking for more efficient or innovative ways to work." However, this is not to say that a Gen X-er can't and hasn't challenged the status quo, but from interviewing millennials, they tend to stick to tradition in their experiences.


  • Goal Achieving/Independence: How the two generations view goal achievements really sets them apart. Generation X finds satisfaction in achieving their goals on their own, without assistance. Millennials need a little more hand holding when achieving their goals. While millennials expect more help at work, they also have a stronger desire to move up the ladder quicker than the generation before them. Working Generation X-ers are fond of solving a problem on their own, where as millennials enjoy teamwork and solving problems with others. After work is done, millennials expect praise and a pat on the back where Generation X wouldn't usually expect one at all. 

Despite the aspects that set the two generations apart, they both are still vital to the workplace. Their differing qualities and capabilities coexist well together. Generation X is needed for their problem solving abilities, hard work, and great management skills. Millennials are needed for their knowledge about the latest technology, teamwork, and quick learning skills. With both generations in the workplace your office is sure to create some of its best work yet. 

If you would like to learn more about marketing to millennials, download our FREE e-book to learn some marketing strategies to draw in this elusive crowd.

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