Are you speaking the wrong language to a different generation?

With the workplace becoming increasingly diverse in terms of the ages that are represented, it is not uncommon to have people in a team that represent the Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennial Generation.

So why does this matter?  Well if you have to motivate people who are of a different generation, it is likely that you are literally not “speaking the same language”. So it is important to understand the generational differences and how it impacts on issues such as feedback.


Traditionalists (born 1922 – 1943)  typically have a respect for rules, put duty before pleasure and are used to hard work, dedication and sacrifice.

Baby Boomers (born 1943 – 1960) have a different perspective. Their characteristics are more around team orientation, involvement, personal gratification and a strong focus on values.

Generation X (born 1960 – 1980) are the “MTV generation”.  They tend to be self-reliant, enjoy fun and informality, and are comfortable with technology.

Millennials (born 1980 – 2000) experienced the rapid increase in the use of technology in our world.  Their can be characterised by showing confidence, having an achievement orientation, and a respect for diversity.

These differing characteristics can affect behaviour at work.  For example, if you are responsible for providing feedback to your team on their performance, a millennial might expect “instant feedback whenever I want it, and at the push of a button”; whereas a Traditionalist is more likely to expect little feedback because “no news is good news”.   Generation X may be keen to get regular feedback to satisfy their need to find out “how am I doing?” with Baby Boomers being more comfortable with feedback once a year with lots of documentation to back it up.

Therefore it is important to consider each person’s individual needs, and what their generation might typically expect.  Being able to get the best from your employees relies on you adapting to each person, and treating them as an individual, something that some managers seem reluctant to do!

The most effective method is to ASK each person, what type of feedback do you expect from me, and in what form?  Don’t assume that they are the same as you.

For more tips on how to motivate people read Sue’s latest book Motivating People out now!




Recent Posts