Session addresses generational differences in workplace

BISMARCK — Generation Y can get away with anything at work, from their flip-flops and piercings to their demands for flexibility.

Because baby boomers are close to retirement, they don’t have to do as much work as their younger co-workers and don’t think they need to listen to them.

It didn’t take long Wednesday for a room full of workers from various generations to vent their frustrations about their older and younger co-workers.

About 60 percent of employers report problems in the workplace because of generational issues, said Pam Sagness of the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

Sagness was the featured speaker of “The Millennials Are Coming,” a presentation during the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit in Bismarck.

The session explored generational differences in the workplace and how to get along with five generations that grew up with different life experiences and expectations.

Although the years defining these generations can vary slightly, they are the Traditionalists (born from 1928 to 1945), the baby boomers (1946 to 1964), Generation X (1965 to 1980), Generation Y/millennials (1981 to 1994) and the Linksters, or those now entering the work force with high school part-time jobs.

Sagness provided the following tips on how to get along with each of the generations:


– Have them mentor other employees.

– Provide them training.

– Accommodate their needs.

– Be patient and learn from their experience.

– Recognize and applaud their contribution.

There’s a reason this group is called the “silent generation,” Sagness said. They just want to go and do their work.

Baby boomers

– Respect their experience.

– Capture their wisdom.

– Arrange for recognition and credit.

– Give them room to work, but don’t abandon them.

– Leverage their strengths in new ways.

Baby boomers are retiring, and younger workers need to have the experience and education they can offer, Sagness said.

Generation X

– Independent workers.

– Provide more family/work balance.

– Create schedule flexibility.

– Vary their experiences.

– Get rid of stupid rules.

This is the generation of “tell me what I need to do, send me out there … don’t coddle me. I’m independent,” Sagness said. This latchkey-kid generation was home after school making up their own rules and “don’t need to have rules (at work) for the sake of having rules.”


– Avoid telling them about the good old days.

– Be open to a virtual work environment.

– Provide flex time.

– This group is used to their opinions being wanted.

– Tell them like it is.

Regarding the last tip, this generation grew up during Sept. 11 and school shootings. “They don’t believe the world is cartwheels and sugarplums,” Sagness said. They also grew up being encouraged to ask, “Why?”


– Be environmentally aware.

– This group doesn’t need face-to-face contact.

– Lead them by example.

– Provide them with job descriptions.

– Welcome them.

This generation grew up extremely connected to their parents and technology, Sagness said.

Mechell Holien, Minot, found the session “very insightful.”

“I want to continue to grow as a professional and not hold on to resentments against young people,” said Holien, a Gen Xer.

Lindsey Hallsten, Jamestown, N.D., said she loved the presentation. A millennial, she likes to make sure she understands the latest technology and wants to be able to relate to her clients.

The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit continues with more presentations today in Bismarck.

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