Look around your workplace and you are likely to see people from across the age span for the first time in history, particularly as more Americans are working past age 55. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management argues that there are a full five generations on the job today, from the Silent Generation to Gen Z.

  • Generation Z: born between 2001 – 2020
  • Millennials: born between 1981 – 2000
  • Generation X: born between 1965 – 1980
  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 – 1964
  • Silent Generation: born between 1925 – 1945

Workers from different generations bring different expectations and life experiences to the workplace. This can be particularly challenging for managers attempting to lead teams comprised of workers from different generations. Lack of trust between older and younger workers often yields a culture of competition and resentment that leads to real productivity losses. These generational frustrations have become even more pronounced during the pandemic. As people of all ages have left their jobs in the so-called Great Resignation, older and younger workers are competing for similar roles.

It is important to note that when age-diverse teams are managed well, members can share a wide array of skills, knowledge, and networks with one another. Consider taking the following steps to help bridge that gap and move toward better intergenerational cooperation.

  1. Identify assumptions and stereotypes. The assumptions we make about generational groups (including our own) can hold us back from understanding teammates’ true selves as well as the skills, information, and connections they have to offer. Noticing that we’re making these assumptions is the first step to combating them.
  2. Adjust your lens. Consider whether the assumptions that you’ve identified align with the reality of the situation at hand, or whether you’ve been judging someone’s actions and attitudes based only on your frame of reference. Try to understand why colleagues from different generations might behave differently than you do.
  3. Identify shared goals. Focus on commonalities or a common direction to reduce perceptions of “us” versus “them” and create or reinforce a sense of “we.” This helps team members begin to see themselves as unified in pursuit of the same interests and builds psychological safety.
  4. Take advantage of differences. Once you’ve tempered generational tensions by recognizing assumptions, adjusting your lens, and identifying commonalities, you can work on finding productive differences with your colleagues of other generations and ways to benefit from each other’s perspectives, knowledge, and networks. Emphasize that differences of opinion are valued contributions toward your common success.
  5. Embrace mutual learning and mentoring relationships. Team members must believe that they have something to learn from colleagues in different age groups. The ultimate goal is mutual learning: peers of all ages teaching and learning from one another in an ongoing loop.

Age-diverse teams are valuable because they bring together people with complementary abilities, skills, information, and networks. If managed effectively, they can offer better decision-making, more-productive collaboration, and improved overall performance — but only if members are willing to share and learn from their differences.


Harvard Business Review (2022, March 8) Megan W. Gerhardt, Josephine Nachemson-Ekwall, and Brandon Fogel: Harnessing the Power of Age Diversity
Harvard Business Review (2019, August 1) Eden King, Lisa Finkelstein, Courtney Thomas, and Abby Corrington: Generational Differences at Work are Small. Thinking They’re Big Affects Our Behavior.
Knowledge City (2022): Generational Differences in the Workplace: A 2022 Guide
Better Up (2022, February 17) Madeline Miles: How to Turn Generational Differences into Employee Retention