Work Ethics In The Workplace: Generation Differences

Understanding the work ethics and generational differences of Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millennials (Gen Y-ers), will give your business a competitive advantage when you look to:

* Hire the right people:

  • Help all employees manage the generation gap to reduce internal conflict and improve employee motivation and productivity

* Market your product / service to your best demographic:

This blog post will explore important work ethics, generation characteristics and motivators of Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millennials (Gen Y-ers), and tips about how  to communicate more effectively.

Baby Boomers: Born between 1946-1964.

When Baby Boomers were in their teens they were individualistic and idealistic – very much like Millennials. They felt they could change the world and in many ways they did. They wanted meaningful work, embraced socially and environmentally conscious companies and were driven more by their values than by money.

By the time mid-generation Boomers started to have families and unemployment had risen to 10%. With mounting responsibility and fewer job options they became less idealistic and more motivated by money, perks and prestige.

Today they hold positions of authority and define themselves by the prestige of the company they work for and their own professional accomplishments.

Employment Expectations
Baby Boomers believe in hierarchy and working your way up the ladder. Experience is more valuable than a degree.

Perks are the reward for hard work, long hours and commitment. They value face time in the office and many don’t welcome work flexibility or other work/life balance trends.

Work Ethic / Loyalty
Boomers are very motivated, hardworking and loyal.  They want to trust their employers and their loyalty means they have not moved companies as quickly as either X-ers or Millennials.

As Boomers approach retirement and feel financially stable many re-embrace their early values of work/life balance and being socially and environmentally conscious – although possession that demonstrate success and prestige remain important.

Generation X. Born between 1965 – 1980

Gen X-ers come from two income and / or divorced families and have grown up with corporate downsizing, massive layoffs and government scandal. With both parents at work Gen X children were left alone or with their siblings, therefore, they became independent, self-reliant individuals.

Bruce Speaking On Global TV about Millennials

Bruce Speaking On Global TV about Millennials

X-ers are more comfortable with technology, diversity, travel and global awareness than Boomers. They are the first generation of Americans to grow up with cd’s, remote controls, computers and with friends from other cultures.

Gen X-ers place a premium on family time, are ambitious and hardworking and value work/life balance.

Employment Expectations
After witnessing the burnout and / or layoff of their hardworking parents, X-ers entered the workplace as independent, resourceful people who value freedom and responsibility.

They are used to being leading edge – especially with technology. Generation X-ers are entrepreneurial, ambitious and eager to learn new skills that relate to their careers.

Work Ethic / Loyalty
They seek fun and meaningful work. They value the freedom to set their own hours and work-from-home options. Gen X-ers often prefer to work alone rather than in teams. A hands-off attitude often works best when supervising, mentoring or working with this generation. Coach, don’t lecture them, and don’t expect blind loyalty.

Gen X-ers are supreme skeptics and expect change. They thrive on diversity, challenge, responsibility and creative input. If their current firm doesn’t provide them with these opportunities, they’ll move.

Make feedback regular and specific. Annual performance appraisals are too late – they need frequent, rapid, specific feedback.

Millennial (Generation Y). Born between 1981-2000.

Millennials have the reputation of having lazy work ethics and being hard to motivate which isn’t true – they just want interesting work that will make a difference.

They grew up in a culturally diverse school and play environment, are tech-savvy, enthusiastic, confident, well networked and achievement-oriented. Millennials are the best educated generation in history.

Thanks to mobile technology their very attentive “helicopter parents” were rarely out of reach. Their parents introduced them to almost constant education and well supervised activities. Their busy schedules and expanded educational opportunities are the root of their confidence and need for variety and challenge.

Millennials have been told by their parents that they can do anything. They’re often called the “Everybody Gets a Trophy” generation because their parents’ insisted that their childhood experiences be positive (everyone wins), and that everyone has a valid opinion and deserves to be heard.

Employment Expectations
Millennials do not expect to “pay their dues.” They are not shy and expect their opinions to be heard. They want to know they have access to an open door to ask questions. Millennials want to know their work is valuable to the company and / or environment… as well as to them and their career. They are driven less by money and more by accomplishment… for now at least.

Millennials want to express their creativity and be able to complete tasks using their own methods.  They are learning-oriented and if they’re doing something wrong they want to know about it now so they can learn from it, but will not dwell on failure (because everyone wins).

Just like when they were young, Millennials like working in teams and being coached, need lots of praise and need to be told often they are on the right track and doing a great job.

Work Ethic / Loyalty
Millennials need detailed instruction about what you want – but let them determine how to get there. Make the work relevant and important to them and the company. If you engage them the right way they will be loyal and work hard. If they’re not satisfied they will quit now and find that job later – and if that doesn’t work out they can get support from their helicopter parents.

Millennials are accustomed to new ideas and situations, a constant opportunity to learn (or more accurately find out).

Praise Millennials often – daily even… and for sure… coach them.


Understanding work ethics in the workplace is important to being an effective manager, business owner. Understanding people’s work ethics and their values will give you most of what you need to know to  attract the best customers, reduce workplace turnover, get their best effort and create positive work environments.

Click Here to find out how you can differentiate yourself and your company every time you send an email.

Imagine work being easier. Imagine work being more productive.

Happy communicating.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

4 Responses to Work Ethics In The Workplace: Generation Differences

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