For Managers


How to Manage a Multi-Generational Team

Managing a multi-generational team can be both challenging and fulfilling. However, there are some things you need to know and do to nurture and lead your team to overall team success.


Your team is made up of unique individuals, people with different views, backgrounds, experiences, values, knowledge, likes, dislikes, behaviors, work styles, and so on. No matter what industry you work in, your team will also be made up of members of different ages. Depending on how you manage your team, these differences and the multi-generational aspect can come into play in both negative and positive ways, affecting team success overall. 

Analysis of the Multi-Generational Workforce

In order to successfully manage a team made up of different generations, it’s crucial to understand each generation as much as possible. What does a multi-generational team look like? According to the experts, the different generations represented in today’s workforce can be broken down into the following percentages:

Traditionalists (born 1925 to 1945): 2%

Baby Boomers: 25%

Generation X: 33%

Generation Y (Millennials): 35%

Generation Z: 5%

Since Traditionalists (sometimes referred to as the Silent Generation) account for only 2% of the current workforce and will most likely not be members of your team, we won’t discuss this group in this post. However, since Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y currently make up the majority of the workforce and presumably your team as well, it’s important to understand each generation: How they think, their work style, their goals, their values, their priorities, and so on.

Since you potentially spend more waking hours with those you work with than at home, it’s important to make the time spent at work as productive and enjoyable as possible for you and your team by understanding any potential challenges before they arise. It’s also critical to understand the benefits of managing a multi-generational team so you can magnify those benefits to their fullest, helping the entire team to be more successful.

Challenges of Managing a Multi-Generational Team

With these vast lists of characteristics in mind, and the diversity of thought, work styles, values, skills, and goals represented, it’s important to realize that challenges can—and probably will—arise when your team is multi-generational. Here are four of the challenges leaders can face when managing teams from different generations.

Different Perspectives, Expectations, and Experiences. Multi-generational groups can have different perspectives and expectations for the workplace environment, work styles, dress codes, work methods, learning processes, procedures, priorities, and other facets of team responsibilities and tasks, which can be a source of conflict within the team. Experiences viewed through generational glasses can also cause potential issues.

Negative Stereotypes. Negative stereotypes could range anywhere from the perspective that younger generations rely too much on technology, to older generations work harder, to younger generations feeling entitled, to some generations being less open to change, to older generations struggling with technology—they’re “old school,” to younger generations being lazy, and more. Any negative stereotypes can be a potential source of discord within a team.

“Many of the generational conversations in the news today rely on false stereotypes and clickbait headlines, rather than taking the time to understand the important differences that are a part of our generational identities,” Meghan Gerhardt, author, Director of Leadership Development at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business.

Communication. Different generations prefer different modes of communication from face-to-face, to phone, to email, to video conferencing, and when clear methods of communication aren’t established, it can be difficult to communicate across the team. 

Any of these challenges that are allowed to fester in the workplace can be serious and lead to misunderstandings, frustration, lower retention of high-quality team members, reduced job satisfaction, negative team culture, and so on.

Benefits of Managing a Multi-Generational Team

While managing a multi-generational team can come with its own set of challenges, working with a team from across the generations can be a positive and rewarding experience for all involved. Here are some ways that a multi-aged team can use their differences to benefit the entire team, leading to a stronger team culture overall.

Diverse perspectives and experiences. When team members are open to learning from each other, any differences can be turned from challenges into assets for the entire team, helping all team members to learn and grow exponentially over working only with those of a similar age and with similar perspectives and experiences. We can all learn so much from each other!

Opportunities to learn from each other. There’s no reason for any employee—whether younger or older—to reinvent the wheel or make mistakes due to a lack of certain experiences or knowledge. When team members rely on and learn from each other, they can often experience greater problem-solving capabilities and increased overall success without the roadblocks caused by inexperience or a lack of knowledge. 

Varied technical experience. While those in the older generations might have more valuable industry experience overall, those in younger generations more than likely have more knowledge about the latest technology and techniques. All generations can benefit from sharing their specific experiences with each other—both educational and technical.

Improved customer service. Your customers are as diverse generationally as your team, so having employees from different generations makes it possible for your customers to be served in the ways that will help them best, no matter their age.

7 Tips for Managing a Multi-Generational Team

Remember: You’re the leader. You set the tone. You have a perspective unlike anyone on your team. It’s important for you to create and nurture a team environment of inclusiveness for all ages and ranges of experience and knowledge so your team can work together cohesively and in a way that leads to success for everyone.

Get to know each team member. Until you get to know and understand each team member and the uniqueness they bring to the team table, it will be difficult to use the strengths of each person to benefit the entire team. This process is not a one-and-done thing either. Just as with any relationship—even a leader and employee relationship, it requires regular check-ins and time spent becoming better acquainted with each other.

Create Communication Procedures. Communication is crucial to team success. And since different generations prefer different modes of communication, it’s important to put some procedures in place as to how your team will communicate with each other. Collect feedback from team members before making decisions on communication methods, and make sure that the reasons for the manner of communication are understood by everyone, which can go a long way to ensuring everyone is on board with whatever is decided. 

Set Expectations. Unclear expectations are a recipe for disaster on any team. Since expectations can be generationally-based, it’s important that you set the expectations for your team and make sure that all expectations are clearly understood.

Collaboration is key. Collaboration might not be comfortable for everyone on your team based on work styles and past experiences. However, working together is a key to success for all, so encourage collaboration whenever possible and show your team that utilizing their strengths for the good of the team can benefit everyone.

Not everyone fits into a generational mold. This is another reason that it’s important to get to know and recognize the individuality of each team member. Some Gen Xers might have some Gen Y characteristics, for example, so be careful about inadvertently stereotyping any team member into a generational mold. 

New isn’t always best. Just because it’s the new and reportedly #1 way of doing things doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your team. This is especially true where technology is concerned. As the leader, it’s up to you to direct procedures and processes on your team, whether that means using the newest methods or pulling from what’s been successful in the past. 

Leading a multi-generational team can be challenging, but it can also be an extremely rewarding experience. When you educate yourself to better understand the basic characteristics of each generation, take the time to get to know each team member individually, and use the multi-generational management tips we’ve shared, you’ll be better equipped to lead your team to success.

Thank you! Click the button below to start your download.
download now
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Read next