Can’t We All Just Get Along? A Generational Survival Guide

Background: For the 1st time we have 4 generations in the workplace.  The reasons for this include, people are living longer on one end of the scale and there has been a huge acceleration in speed of information leading to quicker development of younger generations.  The remainder of this post will serve to describe a generational survival guide by explaining the reasons why each generation has the qualities that summarize why each generation is the way it is.

Traditionalist – (Born Before 1945)

  1. The Great Depression (1929) – Cautious, thrifty, focused on saving
  2. World War II – Believe in large government programs, larger than life leaders, accomplishments of a unified nation where everyone does their duty
  3. Move from Farm to City – Instilled work ethic, meaningful adult roles at a much earlier age, driven by sun not electricity (today we live in a 24-7 world, powered by electricity)
  4. Radio Generation – Mass marketing and experts

Baby Boomer – (Born 1946 – 64)

  1. Baby Boom – Act like workaholics because of how overcrowded hospitals, grade schools, sports teams, campuses, and job markets were.  Taught them that you have to compete to get what you want
  2. Affluence – Having Money; one of the most economically optimistic times in history, not worried about survival, so changed value system from sacrifice to self
  3. Television – Radio made Roosevelt trusted, television made kennedy loved
  4. Generation Gap – Suburbs moved kids away from parents as center of life by having more sources of influence (on farm work with parents, in suburbs parents go to work and kids go to school with peers)

Generation X – (Born 1965 – 1980)

  1. Squished Generation – Numerically gen Xes are 25% smaller than boomers and millennials
  2. Divorce – Common place during childhood
  3. Downward Mobility – No lifetime employment or job security; began adult life with unprecedented personal debt
  4. Computer/Internet – Access to what is going on behind the scenes

Millennial – (Born 1981 – 2001)

  1. Heavy Parental Involvement – Heavily involved parents created the expectation that mangers would be more involved
  2. Fear of Low Self Esteem – Parents and teachers told millennials they are special; everybody who plays/participates gets a trophy
  3. Consumer Age – So many options that millennials learned to ask for what they want or look somewhere else
  4. Sept 11, 2001 – Wars and bombs and battles previously “over there” across an ocean, now at home; learned not to wait until tomorrow to do something important, because tomorrow may not arrive
  5. Technology Everywhere – Didn’t learn how to use computers, built into their 1st toys

Bottom Line: A good starting point would be to think of the different generations like you would think about a different country…nice place to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there. Our own generation will always feel like home, but it doesn’t mean we can’t visit other countries, learn to appreciate them, and to learn to speak their language


  1. Shaw H. Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together [Amazon Link]

Post Peer Reviewed By: Jenny Beck-Esmay, MD (@jbeckesmay)

Cite this article as: Salim Rezaie, "Can’t We All Just Get Along? A Generational Survival Guide", REBEL EM blog, October 2, 2018. Available at:

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