Generation X vs Millennials: What are the Different Attitudes to Work?

06/11/17

As the generations progress and change, different attitudes and behaviours can be observed across the individuals born during these periods. This is particularly relevant in the workplace, as difference can be shown in everything from personal beliefs to capabilities and approaches to work.

These differing ways of working can be very important for a business to consider, as it can require careful management to ensure that these generations don’t clash, or have issues that could see their productivity being affected. To give a clearer picture of this, we’ve examined the attitudes of working individuals from two recent generations, namely ‘Generation X’ and the ‘Millennials’.

The Different Generations Explained

There isn’t a set periods of dates – or a set definition for that matter – regarding when each generation starts or finishes. There are however popular beliefs that individuals born between the mid-1960s and 1980 make up Generation X, while those born between 1980 and 2000 form the Millennial (or Gen Y) generation.

Attitudes to Working

Generation X currently accounts for the largest percentage of the overall workforce and many believe they have inherited their attitude to work from the Baby Boomer generation that preceded them. The entrepreneurial spirit of the post-war Boomers before them means that many are firm believers that hard work will lead to progression and rewards.

However, unlike the Baby Boomers, Generation X are often keen to improve and change the workplace to make it more effective; working to afford a decent living, but not see their lives dominated by their professions.

The attitudes of Millennials in the workplace can be seen to overlap with Generation X in that they also don’t want to have their lives dominated by their jobs; but overall, they are quite different in their respective outlooks.

One of the most notable general Millennial characteristics is their need for things to be done quickly and for them to be rewarded in an equally quick fashion. This is often seen to be because of the rapid developments in smart technology and their exposure to this during their lifetimes - modern devices, for example, have provided them with instant results and information.

It would seem that the attitudes created by these technologies and lifestyles has affected how they feel about work. It can then often be the case that Millennials feel a sense of entitlement and want to be given rewards, instead of working longer to achieve them.

Skillsets

Each of these generations also have different respective skills they can bring to the workplace and again, these are often reflective of their attitudes and characteristics. When interacting with Generation X at work, it’s likely they will come across as more approachable and will be better at dealing face to face with others. These interpersonal skills and their ability to organise and liaise in person are some of their strengths, as it’s these methodologies they’ve grown up with.

In a similar vein, when working with the Millennial generation, a person would be able to see how their upbringings have afforded them the ability to multitask and understand technologies and devices much better than their older counterparts. Again, these Millennial characteristics are something which can stem from their exposure and life experiences with modern tech.

Ambition and Drive

As aforementioned, each of these generations wants a decent work/life balance and have a desire to be rewarded, but it’s also a fair statement to say that they are both ambitions – albeit in different ways.

Again, as previously mentioned, Generation X are more likely to want to work their way up and find success through their hard work and individual endeavours, however they are more ambitious than the Baby Boomers and have a keen drive to move upwards if they feel their work deserves it. As such, they may regularly move roles or jobs if they feel their career progression is limited or is stagnating.

What Millennials want from work is to also achieve more and progress with their careers, but with a given target or goal from someone more senior. Millennials are less likely to take the initiative or act upon themselves to achieve – they can be ambitious but ultimately need more guidance.

Generation Management Advice

Business owners shouldn’t necessarily see these different attitudes to work as problematic, as there are some approaches they can take to help get the most from their teams.

An obvious step to take would be to try and partner or group like-minded and similar individuals from these generations together, in the hope that their similar personalities can transcend the generational differences. While the above points do suggest a lot of parity between Generation X and Millennials in the workplace, it’s also important to note that the above are general statements and not every single individual will display typical Generation X or Millennial characteristics and behaviours (read our article on millenial myths bebunked for more about this).

As well as this, getting individuals from each generation to support and train one another in their respective fields of expertise (Millennials with technology and Generation X with communication) could help bridge the gap between the two groups.

Finally, not showing a bias between the two generations can help keep both groups happier. A manager should recognise the strengths of each and draw on their respective positive qualities, rather than look at the differences purely as a challenge.

Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article.

This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 6th November 2017.

Share this post