Managing a Multi-Generational Team: A Guide To Bridging Generational Gaps in the Workplace

A recent survey with 4,744 respondents revealed that 28 percent of employees in the United States believe working with employees of different ages is highly significant to them. In contrast, the percentage of employees who perceive workplace age diversity as insignificant is nine points higher.

These figures may indicate that those who believe in the importance of workplace age diversity value the benefits of dynamic experiences and versatile perspectives. Meanwhile, those who don’t may prefer uniformity and worry about potential conflicts due to generational differences.

Although employees have varied beliefs, the inevitable is here: workplaces are now multi-generational. If you have employees who think age diversity is unimportant, how do you bridge the gaps to help them welcome its opportunities?

Understanding the Current Generations of the Workforce

Different generations grew up in different time frames, cultures, and environments, influencing their attitudes and characteristics. Understanding these characteristics is essential in helping mitigate your multi-generational team’s challenges.

Traditionalists and Baby Boomers

Traditionalists, called The Silent Generation, are in their seventies to nineties. Most have retired, but some still work as partners, board members, or advisors. Being the oldest of the workforce, they value tradition and hard work.

In their late fifties to seventies, active Baby Boomers are self-assured and goal-oriented while working.

Both generations struggle with digital technologies due to old age, but Boomers can adapt when needed. However, contemporary workplace practices often view them as resistant or slow to adapt.

Generation X

Gen Xers are currently in their forties and early fifties. They were the first generation to grow up with personal computers. They are characterized as adaptable, independent, and resourceful. Although more tech-savvy than their predecessors, they are less dependent on technology, unlike Millennials and Gen Z.

The most common stereotype for Gen Xers is their cynicism, making them prefer solo working rather than in teams. Moreover, they value work-life balance.


Millennials, or Generation Y, are in their late twenties to early forties. They were the first generation to live with the Internet—they either grew up with it or were born into it. While they carry their predecessors’ values, they are more tech-savvy and independent.

Since Millennials were born before and after the advent of the Internet, they are considered the most adaptable generation. They’re more likely to pursue new opportunities to advance their careers.

However, people often perceive this generation as frequently changing jobs, self-absorbed, or entitled.

Generation Z

Gen Zers are in their early teens to mid-twenties, making them the workforce’s youngest generation. They are called digital natives, making them the most tech-savvy generation—they were exposed to digital technologies and social media for nearly half their lives.

Gen Zers are considered the most inclusive, open-minded, and diverse generation. Besides improving themselves, they find socially actionable ways to unlearn and correct the previous generations’ mistakes.

The most common stereotypes among Gen Zers include:

  • Easily distracted
  • Highly dependent on technology
  • Have a lack of interpersonal skills due to tech dependence

Common Challenges of Managing a Multi-Generational Team

The most common challenges of multi-generational teams include:

  • Different Priorities: You may find it challenging to satisfy the needs of each age group. For example, Millennials focus on career advancement, while Boomers prioritize job security
  • Communication Style: Older generations prefer face-to-face interactions, while younger employees may prefer digital messaging
  • Stereotypes: Older employees may perceive younger colleagues as inexperienced, while younger employees may mock older colleagues for lacking technological skills

How To Bridge Generational Gaps in Your Team

Here’s how to bridge the gaps in your multi-generational team to mitigate and prevent workplace issues:

Talk to your team to understand their unique experiences

Successful multi-generational teams understand, respect, and accept each other. Fostering this culture involves talking to your team to understand their unique experiences.

These discussions help you understand your team’s motivations, work styles, and priorities. This way, you can establish policies that meet everyone’s needs. At the same time, you should include everyone to create fruitful conversations that cultivate respect and appreciation of each other’s differences.

Promote the beauty of age diversity

Age discrimination, or ageism, is the unfavorable treatment of a colleague based on age. Although everyone can experience it, older adults are often the targets of this prejudice.

As such, combat workplace ageism by including age in your definitions of diversity. This inclusion helps promote the beauty of age diversity, focusing on intersectionality instead of single topics like gender or race.

Intersectionality helps your employees acknowledge the connection between social categorizations of discrimination. For instance, a colleague may experience discrimination because of age, race, and gender. It helps the team recognize that prejudice isn’t limited to one social category.

Foster psychological safety

Psychological safety refers to your team’s comfort in taking risks, asking questions, acknowledging mistakes, and expressing concerns and ideas. When members lack a sense of psychological safety, they fear the negative consequences of speaking up.

To foster psychological safety, promote open and honest communication by ensuring everyone is comfortable speaking up, whether face-to-face or digitally. Here’s how to do it:

  • Encourage direct reports to communicate their preferred interactions
  • Show your commitment to meeting the team’s preferences halfway so they can do the same for their colleagues
  • Help your team understand that they shouldn’t expect their colleagues to understand their work styles
  • If you have feedback loops for customer management, create a similar system for employees to encourage feedback and workplace environment assessments

Encourage your team to set boundaries

Contemporary professional settings now tackle topics that were once considered taboo. Younger generations are more comfortable discussing issues like race, gender, and inclusivity, helping eradicate stigma in the workplace.

However, disagreements about such topics with older employees are inevitable. Still, you must help them understand why the organization values discussing these social issues.

To minimize miscommunication:

  1. Encourage everyone to set boundaries
  2. Don’t force everyone to accept perspectives, as learning takes time
  3. Let your team prepare for sensitive discussions by informing them to prevent unnecessary arguments

Debunk the negative stereotypes

As the executive or team leader, be the first to debunk negative generational stereotypes. Educate yourself about each generation’s realities and experiences and discuss your learnings with the team.

Debunking stereotypes helps employees understand they can only know their colleagues through interactions, not hasty generational beliefs. This way, they won’t make age-based assumptions that can fuel workplace issues.

Group employees with complementary skills in projects

Team management thrives on collective effort. While the staff learns from the team leaders and vice versa, you learn from them, too. Leverage this mutual mentorship by grouping employees with complementary skills in projects.

Suppose you’re running a marketing campaign. You should combine older employees who are experts in copywriting and market research with younger employees skilled in data analysis and graphic design. 

This combination helps bridge generational gaps because they bring diverse perspectives and ideas, ensuring the campaign is high-quality and meets the current trends.

Don’t play favorites

Some team leaders and executives tend to favor older employees due to experience. However, this favoritism can bring more harm than good, making younger employees feel they are boastful when speaking up.

As such, avoid favoritism by ensuring everyone is heard in meetings. Give your younger members the space to be outspoken, ask questions, give feedback, and respectfully showcase their skills.

Moreover, remind your older employees that less experience doesn’t mean they should dismiss their younger colleagues’ insights. At the same time, encourage your younger staff to learn from their older colleagues’ seasoned perspectives.

Facilitate diversity and inclusion training programs

Another way to bridge multi-generational gaps is by facilitating diversity and inclusion training programs. For example, conduct a workshop about diversity barriers. Invite expert guest speakers who will discuss ageism or the contemporary workplace.

Diversity and inclusion training programs show that you understand your team’s multi-generational challenges and are actively developing ways to address the gaps. These programs help make your team feel heard and show you value creating a safe workplace for everyone.

Organize team-building activities

Lastly, organize team-building activities to nurture mutual understanding among employees.

Team-building activities often require communication and collaboration, encouraging your team to leverage and appreciate each other’s strengths in casual settings. By working towards a common goal, your staff can find common ground and learn from each other.

This shared experience helps enhance teamwork and fosters an environment where everyone is valued and heard.

Listen to Your Employees Attentively

Multi-generational team management isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. However, it can be as simple as attentive listening. After all, most employees prefer management that listens and is open to feedback. The more you listen, the more you can bridge generational gaps by making everyone feel heard and included.

Subscribe To The Engagedly Newsletter