SURVEY SAYS: Employee and Boss Generational Differences

Our coverage of a survey about different generations’ assessments of job candidates made me think about problems that may exist between employees and bosses of different generations.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Is your boss from a different ‘generation’ than you, and does this cause you issues at the workplace?”

There wasn’t a wide variety of generational differences between responding readers and their bosses. More than 5% indicated they are Millennials (ages 18 to 34) and their bosses are Baby Boomers. Sixteen percent are Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 49) whose bosses are Gen-Xers, and 8% are Gen-Xers with Baby Boomer bosses. Twenty-two percent of responding readers are Baby Boomers with Gen-X bosses and 47% are Baby Boomers with Baby Boomer bosses.                    

However, among those who are from different generations than their bosses, there are quite a few issues. From the list, 9% each cited a difference in opinions about work processes and different values given to employee experience and skills. The issue most selected (36.4%) was “gap in knowledge about, or difference in use of, technology,” while 18.2% chose “difference in opinions about employee relations.”

More than 27% chose “all of the above,” which included “inability to communicate effectively,” “different ideas about compensation and promotion” and “different ideas about work flexibility and/or appropriate office attire.”

Comments from readers spanned from “It is nice to be of the same generation as the boss. Having shared generational experiences makes it easier to ‘get’ each other” to “Even though we were born during the same generation, my boss is from a different planet, therefore, we differ in many ways.” Some readers expanded on the differences between their bosses and them, and one “boss” commented that he was “gettin’ schooled” by the other two generations. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “I’m a Gen-Xer and my boss is from the Silent generation—did you forget that there are people older than Baby Boomers still in the workforce?”

Thanks to those who participated in the survey!


It is nice to be of the same generation as the boss. Having shared generational experiences makes it easier to "get" each other.

Where do I begin? In addition to all of what is mentioned in #2. I have to add chauvinism, inflexibility, information hoarding, and power hoarding.

Even though we were born during the same generation, my boss is from a different planet, therefore, we differ in many ways.

I would have expected to relate better to a boss that is my own generation, but my experience has been that I often see a subtle (or not so subtle) hint of arrogance when one is the same age as their employees. It's a constant feeling - and I've observed it in other groups too. It may be that bosses who are the same generation as their employees feel they need to "establish their authority" - but it comes across as arrogant.

We are both Baby Boomers but that doesn't mean we haven't had different opinions over the years about how to best integrate and support Gen-Xers and Millennials (and even Baby Boomers) in our high-stress, fast-paced work environment.

I'm a Gen-Xer and my boss is from the Silent generation—did you forget that there are people older than Baby Boomers still in the workforce?

Not sure I would qualify the differences as "issues," but I find that what is acceptable employee behavior to him is not the same to me, a female. Some employees are allowed to come into the office whenever they please yet get paid for 8 hours while others are required to be here the full 8, or usually more. Profanity (F word mostly) is apparently acceptable in this normally respectable bank environment. Not enough accountability for the job that should be expected to be done and too much allowance of cell phone and internet personal usage while on the clock. I feel like the older generation has higher standards and not keeping to those higher standards may be why the U.S. is lagging behind in the global arena. Maybe I am just getting old and worn out from the corporate politics.

My boss tries too hard to be a Millennial, wants to relate to Baby Boomers, and has no idea what a Gen-Xer is.

Not a large gap - definitely a difference in usage of technology. I do the one finger text!

Even from the same generation and only 4 years apart. My boss has already checked out. She wants everything to stay the same, no changes. I, at 63, was brought in to make changes and put in place what is needed for she (and I) to retire in 3 years. I think it has as much to do with her being the insider than her age, however, that makes her reluctant to change the things she actually brought me in to change.

Our differences are minimal; however, he tells me that he constantly communicates with me on a less professional tone, saying he views me like one of his children rather than a colleague.


Verbatim (cont.) 

My boss is a work "harder" person and I am a work "smarter" person.

I don't think that generations necessarily matter, but life stages matter more. My manager and I are both moms of small children which makes us both on the same page about a lot of things.

My boss and I are on different ends of the same generation but we get along well. I think being on the younger end of Gen X helps me to get along with the Millennial employees I manage.

My previous boss is a B-Boomer, and we had differences with respect to corporate culture and traditions. Glad to see both phasing out with retirement!

Maturity level may be the more appropriate view to take on the differences.

Actually, the shoe is on the other foot. I'm the boss for two different generations and the one gettin' schooled! "Father Knows Best" was just an old sitcom.

My boss and I are both pre-Baby Boomers but still have differences on how people should be treated. We agree on how to run the business.

We have different personalities and different work methods, but we get along fine because he delegates and I figure out how to get it done.

biggest issue is no value for experience, don't want to hear new ideas from old dog

My problem isn't with my boss, per se - it's how my Boomer boss thinks he (and thus, the rest of the management team) has to "kowtow" to the Millennials in our workforce. Seriously, they are young - and they're likely going to make the same mistakes we did when we were young (they may even "invent" a couple of new ones - after all we didn't have email and social media to broadcast ours all over the planet), and I get that. I like the new perspectives they bring, their energy and enthusiasm (I could stand for a bit more realization that they don't know EVERYTHING, but...). That said, this whole "manage by a committee of...EVERYONE" is the most frustrating, inefficient, wasteful approach to getting our jobs done that I have ever seen. This may truly be the "participation trophy" generation...and if so, I weep for our future...

Being a Baby Boomer with a Gen-Xer boss I find that he has a more relaxed method of running an office than I was typically exposed to when I was his age. His attitude is, as long as your work is completed and on schedule, he pretty much allows everyone to monitor themselves. Everyone wants to please him so his method is effective. He's a joy to work for.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.