Skip to Content
Walden Magazine // Jul 01, 2010

How Well Do You Understand Your Colleagues?

Test your knowledge on generational differences

Woman peeking over cuble divider.AFTER MEDIATING COUNTLESS MISUNDERSTANDINGS between employees, Dr. Shantay Bolton ’10, PhD in Psychology, resolved to get to the bottom of the communication breakdowns. Through her research, the former human resources manager found that understanding generational differences can play a large role in creating workplace harmony. Her dissertation research, “Workplace Development Through Generational Differences,” received the Best Poster Award during the January 2010 winter academic residency in Dallas. Take this quiz based on Bolton’s research to see how well you know your co-workers. —L.D.

What motivates your colleagues the most?

A. Seniors (1920-1945) B. Boomers (1946-1964)
C. Generation X (1965-1980) D. Generation Y (1981-2000)
  1. Enjoy autonomy to have a social life during work hours.
  2. Look for a lot of positive feedback and do not like to be micromanaged. If they do not feel appreciated at a job, they have no problem moving on to the next one. They’re trying to get into management positions to increase their salaries—they would uproot their family and go to China if it meant an opportunity for advancement.
  3. Have an allegiance to management. Their mentality is ‘You tell me what to do and I’m not going to question it—even if I disagree with it.’ They work hard and hope it gets noticed. It’s important to them that people who come in after them know what they’ve contributed.
  4. Enjoy being in positions of authority. They’re trusting and loyal to the people who report to them, and tend to be very matter-of-fact.

When it comes to collaborating, what are your teammates’ work styles?

A. Seniors (1920-1945) B. Boomers (1946-1964)
C. Generation X (1965-1980) D. Generation Y (1981-2000)
  1. Like to work at their own pace. They enjoy computer-based projects. They like to feel like part of a team, rather than being told what to do.
  2. Self-sufficient. They like to feel respected and want to be acknowledged for their work.
  3. Tolerant. They tend to be self-starters and they try to be fair—to treat everyone consistently. They will voice their needs in the workplace.
  4. Like to take on a mentor role in the workplace. They don’t like to rock the boat and they’re not particularly interested in socializing at work. They’re not going to tell you if they’re struggling because they don’t want you to think they’re incompetent.

Who is more likely to leave the company to start a business?

A. Seniors (1920-1945) B. Boomers (1946-1964)
C. Generation X (1965-1980) D. Generation Y (1981-2000)
  1. The middle to younger end of this generation is very open to entre- preneurial ventures and wants to feel like they’ll be paid for the work they’re doing.
  2. They’re at an age where often they don’t want to go into debt to start a business. Members of this generation who are entrepreneurs have probably been doing it for a while.
  3. They think very highly of themselves. They have a sense of entitlement. If they’re not getting what they want at a company, they will go out and start their own businesses.
  4. Because of issues like retirement money and health care, they have to reinvent themselves and may start their own companies.

Visit Walden’s Career Center for resources to help navigate your career path

ANSWERS: 1. A-3; B-4; C-2; D-1 2. A-4; B-3; C-2; D-1 3. A-2; B-4; C-1; D-3