Closing the Generation Gap: Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers have long been an influential generation in the workplace, and it’s not just because there are so many of them. This generation is typically competitive and optimistic. They are generally not afraid of change and, in fact, many welcome the challenge that consistent change brings.

Until a couple of years ago, the Baby Boomers were the largest generation in the workplace. As a result, their influence can be felt in every organization. The Boomers are typically in leadership positions and/or serve in roles that drive organizational innovation and risk management efforts.

To better understand Baby Boomers, we must look back at the people, places, and events that shaped them

Baby Boomers grew up with many significant and memorable public figures. Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, the Manson Family, the Osmonds, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Captain Kirk, and the Six Million Dollar Man, all made their way into the lives of the Baby Boomers through the growing media industry. The single most important influence on the young Boomers was television. In 1952, four million television sets were in American homes, and by 1960, that number grew to more than 50 million. Boomers had a front-row seat to events like Watergate, the Vietnam War, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Information came quickly and spread almost immediately due to the media. Young Americans were informed and passionate, and many became involved in the events of the day through sit-ins and protests.

The growing economy and G.I. loans made education available to many. In fact, until Generation Y entered the workplace, the Boomers were the most educated generation. These young idealists questioned the status quo and helped drive progress in areas, including civil rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, and even the rights of the planet. The ecology movement was born and thrived under the Boomers’ direction.

The Baby Boomer generation is competitive. Due to the large number of Boomers, they had to compete for a place on school sports teams, a spot in their chosen university, and a position with an employer. They generally compete fairly and expect the same from others.

Baby Boomers at work – How to attract, retain, and motivate

Attracting, motivating, and keeping Boomers is often pretty straightforward. When it comes to recruiting Baby Boomers, they appear to respond well to most forms of marketing. They respond to traditional print ads, but because they are typically welcoming of new technologies and innovation, they also respond to online postings and other modern approaches. In addition, because they are motivated by levels of influence and power, many appreciate and are charmed by the use of headhunters. They like to be recognized, pursued, and even courted.


When in the workplace, give Boomers the opportunity to work on projects that are exciting and will make a significant impact—ideally both within the organization and the community. Typically classified as workaholics, many Boomers are now recognizing the need for appropriate work/life balance. Companies that help them in this transition will be better able to attract and retain this key talent.

Baby Boomers are motivated by money, title, flexible schedules, corner offices, and public recognition. While less likely to job hop than younger generations, they will not wait forever for what they want. They desire challenges and opportunities for advancement. If they aren’t getting these things out of their current job, they will accept other positions where they are provided opportunity, visibility, and a higher level of influence or challenge.

Baby Boomers are experienced, hardworking, knowledgeable employees, and they prefer face-to-face interaction. This can cause friction with some of the younger generations, especially Generation X, who prefers utilizing email and chat to communicate. Helping Boomers adapt to new communication styles will help bridge the generation gap. However, organizations would also benefit from using the Boomers to help Generation X and Y to understand the importance and value of face-to-face interaction.

Boomers can also become frustrated with the work habits of the younger generations. They may perceive their unwillingness to work 70-hour work weeks as a lack of commitment or laziness. However, the younger generations may be able to help the Boomers find a more balanced approach to work and home life. Also, the younger generations (namely Generation Y) want to be respected and recognized for their contributions immediately. This constant need for attention and recognition can cause tension to build, as Boomers believe that respect is earned over time and aren’t willing to give constant praise. This type of conflict can be reduced with open communication about the employees’ expectations, wants, and needs.

Another source of conflict can come from Traditionals (those born between 1930 and 1945) who question the Boomers’ need to change things and “fix” what Traditionals don’t see as broken. Conflict can be reduced if Traditionals are included in the process, and benefits of the new approach are identified and measured.

Bridging the Gap

The Baby Boomer generation is passionate, motivated, and innovative. They have contributed a great deal to their companies, and for the most part, they have reached the status and earned the respect they worked so hard to attain. However, as we’ve seen, conflict can still arise because of a misunderstanding of other generations’ behaviors and communication styles. Facilitate discussions about communication styles, values, goals, and work ethic to increase communication. Discovering different generational perspectives can help everyone achieve more, while minimizing conflict.

Mandy Smith

Mandy Smith

Mandy Smith is Director of Training and Employee Development for SWBC. She is responsible for providing SWBC employees with learning and development opportunities which enable them to be more efficient, ... Web: Details