millennials in government

Leading Multigenerational Teams

In today’s ever-changing workforce, every leader has to be well trained in handling and working within multigenerational teams. The dynamics of the workforce have changed over the past several decades.

The percentage of Baby Boomers in the federal workforce is expected to drop while Millennial Generation workers will grow in numbers. These shifts impact the culture within agencies since priorities, attitude, and work styles differ within each generation. The anticipated shift is especially important because agencies not only carry the burden of addressing potential issues around knowledge transfer and work style disparities, but also the opportunity to leverage the unique skills of Millennial workers to achieve agency missions.

In order to truly leverage the strengths of each generation it is important to understand their common characteristics and motivations. Each generation grew up experiencing significantly different events that shaped values and perceptions of work. There are currently four generations in the workforce:

  • Traditionalists, born between 1922 and 1946, value experience, knowledge, stability and loyalty. They tend to be motivated when managers connect their action to the overall good of the organization. Messages that motivate: “Your experience is respected here” and “It’s valuable to the rest of us to hear what you have to say.”
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, value service orientation, dedication, team perspective, experience and knowledge. They tend to be motivated by leaders who get them involved and show them they can make a difference. Messages that Motivate: “Your opinion is valued,” “We need you,” and “Your contribution will be recognized.”
  • Generation X, born between 1964 and 1980, value independence, entrepreneurialism and informality.  They prefer to work for managers who are competent, direct, and straightforward. Generation Xers are comfortable working on a deadline; just allow them to get the job done on their own. Messages that Motivate: “Do it your way” and “Forget the rules.”
  • Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, value collective action, personal connection, and work-life balance. Millennials tend to be motivated when their managers connect their actions to their personal career goals. Messages that Motivate: “You will be working with other bright creative people,” and “You and your coworkers will help turn this organization around.”

As a manager, how do you engage employees from all generations? First and foremost, initiate conversations about generations. Individuals often make judgments about each other without realizing those judgments are generational in nature. When supervisors get them out in the open, the issue becomes less personalized and more generalized. The only way to know is to ask. It is also important to:

  1. Offer options. Working successfully with a mix of generations means offering as many choices as possible.
  2. Personalize your style. It is important to be flexible by learning the preferences of each member of your team.
  3. Build on strengths. The best mixed-generation work teams recognize the unique strengths of each individual. Choose people when possible with varied backgrounds to work on projects and tasks.

While it can be challenging to lead multigenerational teams, it is an important managerial skill, and one that helps create a more cohesive and productive team.


Written by Lillian Amaechi, Director of Partnerships and Events for Young Government Leaders

To learn more about Young Government Leaders’ work to increase employees’ commitment to and passion for public service, and to join for free, visit

Posted in Young Gov

Tags: Young Government Leaders, YGL, management



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