Having been a court reporter for over 20 years now, and a Gen Xer, I am starting to notice myself sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millenials (or Gen Ys) in both deposition and courtroom settings.  While I didn’t know the names of all the generations, nor that there was a name for this phenomenon, I knew that how I interacted with the different generations of lawyers I worked with varied, depending on where they fall on the generational spectrum.

Today, there are three and sometimes four generations working side by side.   This is known as generational diversity.  Understanding what drives each of these generations, their work habits, and general characteristics can help create a productive and fulfilling workplace for everyone.

  • Traditional Generation (born 1925-1945) – This generation is shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War.  They respect authority and rules, they believe in a chain of command, and they are extremely loyal.
  • Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964) – This generation is shaped by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and Women’s Liberation.  They believe they can change the world, question rules and authority, and engage in the process of change.
  • Gen X (born 1965-1980) – This generation is shaped by high divorce rates and working parents, creating an independent mindset.  They believe in leadership by competence rather than seniority.  They are multitaskers and strive to balance work and life.
  • Millenials (born 1980-1995) – This generation has grown up with computers, internet, and cell phones.  They, too, are multitaskers.  They want flexibility and were brought up in an age where competition was not about winning, it was about participating.

There are many examples of these differences even in a deposition setting.  I see members of the Traditional Generation appear in suits, and often formally refer to everyone as Mr. and Mrs.  They may work very long hours, and may have been at the same law firm their entire career.  I also see late Gen Xers and Millenials that appear more casually dressed (although still very professionally), who use technology to its fullest extent, and who may even leave the office by 5:00 to work around child care arrangements.  One of the biggest examples of the difference in generations might be seen when it’s time to schedule another deposition and the Baby Boomers get out their hard copy calendar from their jacket pocket, while the Gen Xers get their smartphone out of their pants pocket!

Gen Xers and Millenials can learn a lot from the Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, but they need to slow down long enough to do so.  They need to respect the seniority and position of these generations.  Baby Boomers can also interact more easily with Gen Xers and Millenials by understanding what shapes them.  Sometimes a Millenial may be texting or e-mailing from their smartphone while chatting with a Baby Boomer.  Baby Boomers may find this disrespectful, but if they understand this is the way Millenials learned to communicate and send and receive information, it helps to understand the Millenials are not doing it to be disrespectful.

Kathleen Brady (Principal of Kanarek & Brady, LLC) has narrowed down three things to keep in mind:

  1. Understand the environment.  Observe how others in your workplace are working, dressing, communicating.  Professionalism and respect are still key, no matter what generation you are a part of.
  2. Understand the impact of technology.  Younger generations are used to getting information quicker than ever.    They are also used to having the “answer at their fingertips.”  They need to slow down, use some independent thinking, and keep professional communication formal and not resort to text-speak.
  3. Display impeccable judgment.  Millenials are used to putting their life and thoughts on display via many social media channels.  Sometimes Baby Boomers may look at this as a lack of judgment.

The keys to successful generational diversity in the workplace is to respect those you are working with, regardless of their generation; celebrate and embrace every generation’s differences; and have an open mind that you could possibly learn a thing or two from someone from a different generation!




Angie Starbuck is a court reporter in Columbus, Ohio, and the owner of PRI Court Reporting, LLC. Angie is an NCRA-certified RPR, CRR, CCP, and a proud Gen Xer. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Google+.

Attention Gen Y’s:  Understand Generational Differences in the Workplace by Kathleen Brady, Kanarek & Brady, LLC.
Generational Differences Between Attorneys, by James Kimberly, Sapphire Consulting.
Photo credit:  www.abcya.com

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