Embracing Generational Diversity in the Workplace


By: Mike Gasbara

In a time when there are five generations in the workplace, it’s essential to work together and effectively utilize the strengths of individual team members. The Female Quotient, a group committed to advancing equality in the workplace, explored this topic during a recent panel at the 2018 ANA Masters of Marketing.

Titled “We're Better Together: What Each Generation Brings to the Workplace,” the panel featured Jennifer Tracy, SVP, Partner Marketing and Creative, Nickelodeon, Viacom Velocity; Meredith Long, Chief Revenue Officer, Quantcast; Cathy Muldowney, VP of Programmatic Sales, Clear Channel Outdoor; Khartoon Weiss, Global Head of Verticals, Spotify and Emily Brooks, SVP, Group Account Director, MullenLowe Group. Moderating the panel was Shelley Zalis, CEO of the Female Quotient and founder of the Girls’ Lounge.

Zalis, Weiss, Brooks, Muldowney ,  Long, and Tracy at the Girls’ Lounge ANA Masters panel

Zalis, Weiss, Brooks, Muldowney, Long, and Tracy at the Girls’ Lounge ANA Masters panel

The group discussed how it’s essential to understand the strengths of not only individual team members, but from a generational standpoint as well. For example, Tracy said that the primary traits of Gen Xers are being “adaptable, independent, and entrepreneurial.” She added that Amazon, Google, and YouTube were all founded by Gen Xers, and the characteristics that set the cohort apart is “heavy focus on work-life balance, and the importance of investing in yourself, friends and family outside the workplace.”

For Weiss, Gen Xers’ worldview contrasts with that of younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Zers. “The younger generation is not interested in work-life balance; they are interested in meaning. They are not interested in being motivated; they bring their motivation,” she said. She also noted that today’s employer/employee relationship is “partnership, not management—and leadership, not micromanagement.”

Zalis then asked about intergenerational teamwork, specifically how her panelists would feel reporting to someone younger than themselves. They all agreed that listening, learning, and understanding would be paramount in this scenario. “Our founder and CEO is younger than me, and he sets the values and the vision that I completely subscribe to,” Weiss said. She adds, “I take it as a motivational point; what does someone as young and enlightened have to teach me?”

Listening to and understanding the needs of employees to create optimal work conditions is essential to the company morale. With different genders, races and five generations now populating the workforce, it’s necessary to communicate across all ends of the spectrum. As Tracy said, “one of the most important things is simply recognizing that you can learn from others, and you do that just having honest conversations.”

Header image credit: Facebook/FemaleQuotient