Are Generational Differences Working For or Against Your Office?

By | January 20, 2011

How many different generations do you have working side by side in your Agency or Company? Do you have a Veteran who thrives on the satisfaction of a job well done? Do you have a Baby Boomer who is very service oriented and willing to go the extra mile for relationships? What about a Gen X’er? These 33-45 year olds, while technoliterate, can be impatient, cynical and have poor people skills. And what about the Millennial or Gen Y employee? With their optimism and technological savvy, these employees still have a need for supervision and structure, where do they fit into your office?

Do you have a ‘Generation Friendly’ environment?

Isn’t it interesting that whenever you have a new generation entering the work force, the generation before them sees them as lazy or ‘know-it-alls’. It happened with the Baby Boomers with the long hair. It happened with the Gen X who do not deal well with criticism and are the “eternal students”. And now the Millennials. “They think they know everything and are smarter than everyone else!” “Don’t they know how to dress?”

So how do we all just get along?

Your Veteran employee wants to feel that they are a part of the history of the company. They need that pat on the back and job well done. They can also feel that since they have been around longer, seniority has to do with time and nothing else.

Your Baby Boomer is great with people and maybe not as much with numbers. They also want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They are looking for ‘cheerleaders’ who will give them support and a smile for the work they do.

The Generation X employee does not like when you look over their shoulder and continually ask if the project is done. If it is not the due date, don’t ask! They like to multi-task and for a reward would love to spend time at home with their kids and family.

The Millennial employee is a whole different story. They come in like gang-busters looking at all the ways they can change the company (for the better). Maybe you have to go paperless or are not involved in Social Media? They will see it all in about 1 week and will want to discuss their ideas with the President. Millennial do not see the President as being different from any other employee. If they have an idea they will share it with the decision maker. They do not understand corporate structure because to them there should be no structure. Do not take their ability to sit down and spill improvement ideas an insult. If they didn’t care and if they didn’t want to work for you they would tell you that too. Is it entitlement? Maybe. But learn to allow it to work for your bottom line – not against it.

Think about these differences when putting teams together or pairing people to work together. Is a Veteran always the best mentor? If they are going to be talking about how great things used to be, then probably not. Is a Gen X always the most outside the box thinker? If they are in a group where people are critical (even constructive criticism) they will not share their ideas.

Think about the people in your office and where they fit in. Take into account that stereotypes do not fit everyone; look at the individual as well as the generation. Take time to listen and understand that not everyone understands or responds well to “Top-Down Management and Decisions.” Involve the younger generations in your decision making and ask for their ideas on occasion, fully explaining that there are those decisions that will always be made from the Top.

So, do you have a ‘Generation Friendly’ work environment? How do you have different generations working side by side? How are you selling insurance to different generations?

Come along for the ride next time with Ryan Hanley (Guilderland Agency, Inc), a young insurance professional from upstate NY who will tell us how he got into the industry he loves so much.

Chiapperino is the past chair for the National Young Insurance Professionals, past president of the New York Young Insurance Professionals and current president of PIANY. Donna is the director of marketing for Jimcor Agencies and can be reached at or 201-573-8200 x1118.

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