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Grads Supervise Employees Their Parents' Age

Published Friday Jun 14, 2019

Grads Supervise Employees Their Parents' Age

The first wave of Generation Z (those born after 1996 and more than 60 million strong) has entered the workforce, which means there are five generations working together. In a new report, XpertHR explains how employers can understand the differences between the generations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z – and manage employees who have different values, attitudes, expectations, needs and motivations. Today, it is possible to have 60+-year-olds working beside 20-year-olds and recent college graduates supervising employees old enough to be their parents. 

“Because of these differences, employers need to clearly communicate performance expectations,” says Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor, author of the new report. “For example, older managers should not assume that younger workers understand what ‘business casual’ means. Or supervisors may need to explain and enforce technology policies to Gen Zers, who may interpret them differently and are used to using their mobile phones to stay in constant contact with friends.” 

At one end of the generational spectrum are the Baby Boomers, who are generally very loyal, and tend to stay at jobs for long periods of time. Toward the other end of the spectrum are Millennials, who have been called “job hoppers,” and who expect to not only have multiple employers but also multiple careers. Instead of climbing a career ladder, younger generations move up – and laterally – along a career “lattice.”


Baby Boomers

Generation X


Generation Z

Disciplined rule-followers

Loyal to company and career

Cynical and skeptical

Crave instant gratification

Crave continuous feedback


Respectful of hierarchy

Learn/adapt quickly and are impulsive

High expectations and standards for themselves

Enjoy highly-engaged managers


Like face-to-face meetings or email



Use everything with a device

Job satisfaction has always been an issue with each generation; the difference is now if the younger generations are not happy, they will leave. This has made employee retention a major concern for many employers, according to the report.

“Employers need to understand each generation’s concerns in order to plan how to address them,” says Teachout. 

Generally, Traditionalist and Baby Boomer employees often juggle complicated lives, including caretaking of children, grandchildren and perhaps elderly parents. Unlike younger workers, older workers may be more focused on retirement benefits and career-earning potential. 

Traditionalists and Baby Boomers also may be concerned with job security, fearing that they will be let go in favor of younger, cheaper labor. Employers run the risk of age discrimination claims if discharges appear to target older workers, especially when implementing reductions in force (RIFs) and selecting employees for layoffs.

Gen Xers came of age at a time when divorce was high and women were joining the workforce in record numbers. Many were latchkey kids who were home alone after school, so they learned to be self-reliant and adaptable. Their self-sufficiency is carried over to the workplace, where they work best independently and are good problem solvers. They also highly value flexibility and freedom. Supervisors should think twice before they use a command-and-control management style on the younger generations, as it is not likely to be well received, the report notes. 

According to the report, Millennials have been nurtured and pampered, and they value their importance in the workplace. Many Millennials often show confidence and believe that everyone wants to hear what they have to say. They may change jobs and even careers, often. They are great multi-taskers, but also can have short attention spans. Millennials like to communicate often and quickly. 

Generation Z is interested in experiences and professional growth, but not necessarily in the form of a traditional or structured career path. Generation Z may be attracted to contingent positions in order to achieve flexibility or rapid skills growth. 

To download a free copy of XpertHR’s report From Baby Boomers to Generation Z: How to Manage Across Generations, visit  XpertHR.

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