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Generational Gaps in Today’s Workforce

Monday, January 22nd, 2024


by Samantha Booth, Counseling Intern


“Generations are not boxes. Instead, they are powerful clues that help us better understand, connect with, build trust, and influence people of different ages.” This is quoted by one of lead researchers and speakers on generation research, Jason Dorsey.  Whether we want to admit it or not we cannot get away from generational differences in our communities and it has been this way forever.  You’ll most likely hear comments related to generation differences when a sentence starts with, “These kids these days…” and fill in whatever behavior someone is noticing that they disagree with.

There is a lot of value in generational differences.  Each generation has its own cultural beat to it that brings commonality to a group of unique individuals.  But what causes generational shifts? The two biggest categories that cause shifts in generations are technology and culture changes (parenting, media, global events).  Generation changes are not so much about age, but are more about the values and beliefs of people who are grouped together and categorized by their birth year.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the current generations making up the workforce today.

1. Baby Boomers (1946-1964).  This generation was raised in a post WWII, resource-limited society.  They tend to be more work-centric, conservative, and competitive. Boomers make up approximately 25% of the workforce.

2. Gen X (1965-1980). This generation was raised in an after war but before a big internet technology boom.   They tend to be more work-life balanced, independent, and materialistic.  Gen X makes up approximately 33% of the workforce.

3. Millennials (1981-1996).  This generation was raised in an economically stable and technology advancing society.  They tend to be more curious and questioning, flexible, and growth oriented or self-prioritizing.  Millennials make up approximately 35% of the workforce.

4. Gen Z (1997-2010).  This generation was raised in a digitalized, economically fluctuating society.  They tend to be more communicative, open, diverse, and collaborative.  Gen Z makes up approximately 5% of today’s workforce.

Many people have felt temporary moments of stress at their workplace, seasons of stress, or for some, the work environment may feel like a continuous stressor.  Whatever the stressor may be, it can feel hard to find balance, keep up with workplace demands and balance different lifestyles and habits.  At times, we can feel like a generational gap is an additional challenge or stress.  If we view the generational gaps through a negative lens, we may limit others by our very own thinking.  And while something may feel true, we can remember that feelings come and go.   When we seek to understand each other, we can avoid separation and exclusion.  We can learn from generations that are in front of us or behind us.  Being mindful of some of these qualities can become a helpful tool, instead of a road block.  When we remember that “Generations are not boxes. Instead, they are powerful clues that help us better understand, connect with, build trust, and influence people of different ages”, we can tolerate differences and focus on connection.

If you find yourself overwhelmed at your place of work, or struggling with generational challenges, at all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton, our mission is this- we meet you where you are, offering hope.  You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.



John Hopkins University, 2022
The Center for Generational Kinetics, 2023