The need for ‘generation management’.

Over the past thirty years, I have guided countless individuals and observed significant shifts in how different generations vary in their motivations, interests, and energy levels. These generational differences are not merely superficial but are deeply rooted in the unique societal contexts that each generation has experienced. Failure to align organizational practices with the specific needs of each generation can lead to decreased productivity and increased turnover. Understanding these generational distinctions is essential for fostering a harmonious and efficient workplace.

Theoretical Foundations

The field of developmental psychology provides several frameworks for understanding how external circumstances influence human behavior. Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, for example, outlines eight stages through which a healthy individual should pass from infancy to late adulthood. Each stage is characterized by a specific conflict that must be resolved to develop certain psychological qualities. The successful resolution of these conflicts is heavily influenced by the individual’s social environment.

Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory further expands on this by categorizing the different environmental layers that impact human development. These layers range from the microsystem (immediate environment like family and school) to the macrosystem (broader societal and cultural influences). Bronfenbrenner emphasized that the interactions within and between these layers are crucial in shaping an individual’s development.

Generational Influence and Historical Context

Each generation experiences a unique set of historical and social circumstances during their formative years, which leave lasting impacts on their behaviors, values, and worldviews. For instance:

  • Baby Boomers, born post-World War II, experienced economic prosperity and social change, leading to a generation characterized by a strong work ethic and a value for traditional structures.
  • Generation X, growing up during economic recessions, developed a pragmatic and independent approach to work and life, balancing skepticism with a drive for personal achievement.
  • Millennials and Generation Z, shaped by the digital revolution and global interconnectedness, bring a different set of values, emphasizing flexibility, social responsibility, and a blend of personal and professional lives.

These generational characteristics are not just academic observations; they have practical implications for how different age groups function within a professional setting. Businesses that recognize and adapt to these generational differences can leverage the unique strengths and perspectives each group brings to the table.

The Role of Social Media and Perfectionism

In addition to historical and economic contexts, the rise of social media has significantly impacted generational behavior. Social media platforms have not only changed the way we communicate but have also contributed to the rise of perfectionism. This trend, particularly prevalent among Millennials and Generation Z, is driven by constant exposure to idealized images and lifestyles. The pressure to meet these often unattainable standards has been strongly linked to various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This example underscores the profound influence of changing environmental variables on human behavior and well-being.

Generational Management: Harnessing the Power of Five Generations in the Workplace

In today’s workplace, five distinct generations are active: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Pragmatists, Millennials, and Generation Z. Each generation has unique characteristics and backgrounds shaped by significant events during their formative years. This diversity presents both challenges and opportunities for organizations.

Baby Boomers: The Protest Generation

Born between 1940 and 1955, Baby Boomers grew up in the post-World War II era. This generation was raised traditionally, with clear family roles. They witnessed economic prosperity and fought for their ideals, leading to the hippie culture and societal changes. Baby Boomers introduced the Dutch “polder model,” emphasizing consensus and consultation. While many are now retired, some remain active as advisors within organizations.


  • Traditionally raised
  • Independent and loyal
  • Strong coaching skills

Generation X: The Lost Generation

Born between 1955 and 1970, Generation X grew up during economic crises. This self-reliant generation learned to work hard and balance work and private life. Initially accepting workplace hierarchies, they evolved into goal-oriented connectors who value diversity and collaboration.


  • Pragmatic and modest
  • Analytical and goal-oriented
  • Critical and collaborative

Pragmatists: The “Fries” Generation

Born between 1970 and 1985, Pragmatists were raised during economic prosperity and technological advancements. They are flexible, efficient, and good collaborators. This generation began to dismantle hierarchical structures and introduced efficient work methods like LEAN and Agile.


  • Pragmatic and flexible
  • Confident and efficient
  • Focused on self-development

Millennials: Generation Y

Born between 1985 and 2000, Millennials grew up amidst technological advancements and terrorist threats. Their upbringing emphasized the belief that anything is possible with hard work. Millennials are digitally savvy, innovative, and social but also experience the pressure of social media and information overload. They are purpose-driven and less loyal to a single employer.


  • Creative and quick
  • Innovative and socially adept
  • Flexible and adaptable

Generation Z: The Screenagers

Born between 2000 and 2015, Screenagers are the first generation to grow up entirely with the internet. For them, the line between work and private life is barely noticeable, and they prefer direct access to information and networks. Generation Z values sustainability and social responsibility highly.


  • Quick information processors
  • Entrepreneurial and confident
  • Experts in social media

The Challenges and Opportunities of Generational Management

With increasing age diversity in the workplace, organizations face the challenge of accommodating different norms and values from each generation. This can lead to challenges, especially if an organization’s policies and processes are shaped by only one generation. Generational management can turn these challenges into opportunities.

Connection and Understanding

The first goal of generational management is to raise awareness of the differences between generations and their influences on behavior. By gaining insight into each generation’s backgrounds, organizations can reduce biases and foster understanding. The next step is to create dialogue between generations to discuss and overcome perceptions and prejudices.

Next Steps

We have to explore in firms to initiate concrete steps to effectively implement ‘generational management’. This includes tips for teams and organizations to leverage the talents of different generations and achieve better results collectively. We offer various solutions for organizations to implement generational management. These programs are designed to inspire and activate employees and to achieve sustainable changes within organizations.

For more information on generational management in practice, visit our website or contact us at

Dr. Erik Matser.