An In-depth Look at Today’s Corporate Culture

As business owners, it’s crucial to not only understand the distinctive groups of generations and individuals that make up your staff, but also what defining life events shape their attitudes, workplace strengths and weaknesses and specifically how each generation perceives one another in terms of employment performance.
As an increasing number of Gen Yers enter the marketplace, preparing yourself to effectively manage and appreciate your staff is one of the most essential activities that will contribute to success.
Below is a summary chart to serve as a catalyst in further understanding today’s corporate DNA.

Years Born

Estimated Pop.

Defining Events and Trends

Workplace Assets

Workplace Liabilities


1922 – 1943

50.7 million

Patriotism, families, The Great   Depression, WW II, New Deal, Korean War, Golden Age of Radio, Silver Screen and rise of labor unions

Stable, detail oriented, thorough, loyal, hard working,  collaborators, Internet embracers

Inept with ambiguity and change, reluctant to buck the system, uncomfortable with conflict, reticent when they disagree


1943 – 1960

80.2 million

Prosperity, children in the spotlight, TV, suburbia, assassinations, Vietnam, Civil Rights movement, Cold War, Women’s Liberation, The Space Race

Service oriented, driven, willing to “go the extra mile,” good at relationships, want to please, good team players

Not naturally budget minded, uncomfortable with conflict, reluctant to go against peers, put process before result, overly sensitive to feedback, judgmental, self-centered

Gen X

1960 – 1980

62.1 million

Watergate, Nixon resigns, latchkey kids, stagflation, single-parent homes, MTV, AIDS, computers, Challenger disaster, fall of Berlin Wall, Wall Street frenzy, Persian Glasnot, Perestroika

Technoliterate, adaptable, independent, creative, risk taking, practical, entrepreneurial, adaptable

Impatient, poor people skills, cynical, whiners, slackers

Gen Y

1980 – 1997

74.2 million

Computers, schoolyard violence, Oklahoma City bombing, TV talk shows, multiculturalism, Girls’ Movement, McGwire and Sosa, Columbine, Clinton/Lewinsky, busy over planned lives, stress

Independent yet collaborative, optimist, tenacious, heroic spirit, multitasking capabilities, technological savvy, entrepreneurial

Need for supervision and structure, inexperience – especially when handling difficult people issues

Sources: PrimeTime Women
Generations at Work
Don’t Think Pink

In addition to knowing the historical background and typical flaws and vigor of today’s working generations, internalizing generational views of authority, leadership style and work ethic are customary to a contented staff that, most importantly, can get along and get things done.
The potential for generational misunderstanding is at an all-time high with the span of four generations in the workforce. Tensions between the population segments can be hindered by fostering effective communication within the office environment.
Veterans living through World War II and the Great Depression may be seen as rigid and narrow by younger generations. Boomers and Xers see them as too set in their ways to adjust, leading to increased workplace frustration.
Boomers experienced the age of “free love” and challenged the status quo. Their competitive nature led to the 60-hour work week.  While Generation Y seems appreciative of what the Boomers have accomplished, Xers tend to have resentment toward them. Xers have a sense of skepticism about the workplace and their employers.
The youngest generation, Gen Y, is the most technologically influenced generation. Looked at as computer savvy and competent, their experience with technology may also leave them unable to handle criticism or stick up for their ideas within the office environment.
The changes that have occurred over the last several decades have led to generational gaps in perception and communications styles. Overcoming these differences and learning how to relate to all age ranges in the office can lead to higher productivity and retention.