July 31, 2020 | By Brenda Edwards, CPC, CDEO, CPB, CPC-I, CEMC, CRC, CMRS, CMCS

The workplace is a diverse collection of individual people who are all working towards one goal – making the company successful. Personalities can make this challenging; generational differences brought into the equation can make this even more difficult. When multiple generations are involved, who is right in their thinking? The answer is they all are. There are many ways to conquer a problem and we all want to believe our way is the best way, yet we all need to be receptive to different thought processes.

Comparison of Generations

Characteristic Traditionalists

Pre – 1945

Baby Boomers

1946 – 1964

Generation X

1965 – 1976

Millennials (Gen Y)

1977 – 1995

iGen (Gen Z)

1996 and after

Technology use Uncomfortable Unsure Unable to work without it Unfathomable if not provided Lifelong use
Motivated By Being respected Being valued and needed Freedom and removal of rules Working with other bright people Salary and job flexibility
Training Self-taught – my way Not too much- trial and error Required to keep me Continuous and expected Gaming and videos for training


In comparing just a few characteristics between the age groups, we can see they vary considerably. As a member of the Baby Boomers, technology can be a struggle and I am sure I drive my son and any IT help desk crazy with questions that are likely elementary in their mind. Technology is nice, but if the power goes out or the internet is unavailable, I make do with handwritten notes until it is restored. I recently discovered Rocketbook and was quite impressed with using it. When I told a younger colleague of mine about it, her response was “why use that when you can just take a picture of your notes and send them to yourself?” Wow, I had not even considered that as an option but I’m sure to her it was a no-brainer!

One of my least favorite comments is “because we have always done it that way.” Times change and we need to be receptive to new ideas. Those ideas may come from the younger workforce and may shed new light on something that had never been previously considered. I know I have said more than once that we need to mentor the next generation of medical business professionals; that doesn’t mean that we force feed them our way of doing things. Our feelings should not be hurt and instead we could share the tasks and look for their input on ways to implement them. You may be pleasantly surprised by some of the ideas that are brought up.

Appearances Matter

The definition of business attire has also evolved over the past 50 years. Google “business attire in the 70s” and you’ll find a lot of polyester three-piece suits, leisure suits, and pantyhose. Looking back at these styles may be laughable, but at the time they were expected. Fast forward to the early 2000s – tattoos became more common place along with body piercings and hair colors that were not considered “natural” colors. Are these things wrong? Not necessarily, although the earlier generations may think they are inappropriate. I recall a young man who worked for me wanting to get a tattoo on the back of his neck; the company we worked for had a firm policy that all tattoos had to be covered during business hours. But now, just 15 years later, tattoos are more commonplace and accepted. The important thing with appearance is to abide by what your specific employer’s expectations are. I’m sure in another 15 years, we will look back to 2020 and consider the appropriate attire to be as laughable as that from the 1970s.


Open channels are important when communicating with different personalities and generations. It can be eye-opening to take a self-evaluation of your personality style. Four common personality styles are passive, aggressive, assertive, and passive-aggressive. Somebody who is assertive may appear in control by the way they carry themselves; in comparison, a person who is passive may be much more soft-spoken. Most people have characteristics in multiple personality types and understanding these differences can be invaluable not only in our professional lives, it can also be impactful in our daily lives. You never know who is watching you, looking to you as a mentor, or wanting to “grow up to be like you!”

Initiating difficult conversations can be intimidating to many of us. Approaching these conversations can be less difficult when we keep in mind a few communication pointers.

Ask Is this a good time to talk? ​
Don’t finger point Use “I” phrases and avoid “you” statements ​
Be direct Short statement that gets to the point​
Use active listening Allow person to respond completely, even if defensive​
Sympathize  Understand their perspective and make the effort to show it​
Empathize  Express you realize how difficult it might be for them
Assess Tell me more – are you ready to expand on it? ​
Detailed conversation Explain rationale, reward, and risk

Steps to Success

Consider what steps you might take that can aid in making the workplace operate more efficiently in a multigenerational environment; be open-minded, encourage open dialogue, respect all members of the team and embrace change. Change can be exciting!