OccupationalTherapy.com Phone: 866-782-9924

Multiple Generations In The Workplace: Effective Communication To Enhance Diversity

Multiple Generations In The Workplace: Effective Communication To Enhance Diversity
Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
July 20, 2023

To earn CEUs for this article, become a member.

unlimited ceu access $129/year

Join Now

Editor's Note: This text-based course is a transcript of the webinar, Multiple Generations In The Workplace: Effective Communication To Enhance Diversity, presented by Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA.

Learning Outcomes

  • After this course, participants will be able to recognize the common characteristics of the different generations in the workforce.
  • After this course, participants will be able to identify the best ways to manage the various generations to promote satisfaction and harmony.
  • After this course, participants will be able to list different communication styles and the strengths/preferences of each.


I want to welcome everyone and thank you for being here today. I hope you find the information helpful.

Generational Makeup of the Workforce

  • Traditionalists 
    • (born 1928-1945)
  • Baby boomers 
    • (born 1946-1964)
  • Gen Xers 
    • (born 1965-1980)
  • Millennials/Gen Ys 
    • (born 1981-1996)
  • Gen Zs /Gen 2020
    • (born 1997-2012) 

I think we would all agree there is a multi-generational workforce currently in most workplaces, with people from all different generations working together across many industries. It is very commonplace to have a mix of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z coming together.

There are currently 5 generations in the workplace, although Traditionalists are the smallest group.


Traditionalists were born between 1928 and 1945, so they are often over 70 years old. However, some in this group still work out of financial necessity because their retirement savings took a hit or simply because they want to remain active.

Traditionalists have been influenced most directly by past workplace environments. They have also been the most vulnerable generation to the physical and mental effects of COVID, so you may have noticed older workers struggling to continue working during the pandemic. Traditionalists have been among the most loyal and dedicated yet risk-averse workers. Their values were shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic boom. This generation possesses a very strong commitment to teamwork and has a high regard for developing interpersonal communication skills.

They are among the most financially stable elderly population in United States history, largely due to their willingness to conserve and save after the economic impacts of the postwar period.

Baby Boomers

Let's shift to discussing the Baby Boomers. This generation was born between 1946 and 1964. Half came of age during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, while the other half grew up during the political change of the 1970s. As a group, Baby Boomers tend to be distrustful of government authorities, given the political climate when they were growing up. 

Generation X

Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. They are a much more progressive and educated generation compared to previous ones. Gen Xers are typically very independent people. They were among the first to embrace technology for both educational and entertainment purposes.

Generation Y

Looking at the next generation, Millennials, or Gen Y, born between 1981 and 1996, have been considered one of the most misunderstood generations. They are highly technology-oriented and favor a team-driven environment. Millennials are often considered the generation of multitaskers.

Generation Z

Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, is the youngest generation currently in the workforce. They often cannot go a day without technology access on their devices. Their smartphones have as much computing power as the bulky desktop computers older generations first embraced. Gen Z is considered highly interconnected, with social circles encircling the globe. They think nothing of having friends in different countries and constantly communicating via various online platforms.

Generational Workforce Statistics 

Let's examine some statistics on the generational makeup of the workforce as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Generational makeup of the workforce.

This chart shows the career drivers, work styles, and percentage of each generation currently in the workforce as of 2020. It also projects the percentages for 2025, which show some shifts occurring mostly with the oldest and youngest generations.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are the first generation to actively prioritize work over personal life. They distrust authority and large organizations. Their values were shaped by the rise of civil rights and the Vietnam War era. Boomers are optimistic yet responsible for the “Me Generation” moniker.

As parents of Gen X, their career drivers are a strong work ethic and company loyalty, hoping for financial stability through pensions and 401Ks. Their work style tends towards delegating and teamwork, believing you should pay your dues and work up the ladder.

In 2020, Boomers comprised 33% of the workforce, but are projected to shrink to just 5% by 2025 due to retirements.

Generation X

Generation X has been called the “slacker” generation but also the “sandwich” generation. They question authority but initiated the concept of work-life balance, unlike their career-driven Boomer parents.

Born into declining population growth, Gen Xers possess strong technical skills and more independence than previous generations. They prioritize work less, leading older Boomer managers to sometimes question their dedication. However, Gen Xers follow rules and are resourceful, innovative, and driven to develop niche skills that allow them to take on challenges. They are perceived as adaptable and less concerned with long-term job stability, changing jobs readily.

In 2020, Gen X was about 32% of workers, remaining steady at around 20% by 2025.

Millennials/Gen Y

Millennials or Gen Y are the first truly global generation, coming of age during rapid internet growth and rising international terrorism. They adapt well to change and deeply value diversity and inclusion. Their educational opportunities expanded significantly due to tech advances during their upbringing.

Millennials are considered the most teamwork-oriented generation today. They grew up heavily programmed by parents with structured activities, while Boomer parents intensely focused on careers. Millennials are our most optimistic generation.

Their percentage in the workplace has remained relatively stable at around 30-35%.

Gen Z

Generation Z is gradually replacing the retiring Veteran Generation. They are our youngest employees, comprising about 5% of the workforce in 2020 but estimated to rise to over 20% by 2025. Gen Z is highly concerned about financial security. They are more pragmatic than Millennials and thrive when given clear direction through step-by-step coaching and frequent face-to-face communication with leadership. Since Gen Z will make up the largest percentage of the 2025 workforce, paying attention to their needs can greatly benefit companies looking to expand.

This chart shows the generation workforce shifts (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2. Generation workforce shifts.

This chart illustrates the population shifts in the United States over the years 2010, 2015, and 2020. The graphs use different colors to represent each respective year: yellow for 2010, gray for 2015, and darker gray, almost shading towards black, for 2020.

The data indicates that the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) is experiencing a decline in population percentage due to natural aging. Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) have remained relatively steady but occupy a lower portion of the percentage. Meanwhile, Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are gradually increasing in population share, reflecting their growing presence in the US population. Additionally, Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is also witnessing a rise in population percentage.

Please note that this data is specific to the year 2020 and does not project beyond that year. To obtain the latest and most comprehensive population information, it is advisable to refer to up-to-date sources from reputable organizations.

Generational Events

Let's explore some major historical events occurring during each generation's formative years, which helped shape their perspectives (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3. Major events for each generation.

  • Traditionalists - The 1937 Hindenburg explosion, WWII beginning in 1941, and WWII ending in 1945. Overall, many wars and tragedies.
  • Baby Boomers - Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947, the Korean War in 1950, JFK's assassination in 1963, and the Vietnam War ramping up in 1965.  
  • Gen X - The 1969 moon landing, 1969 Woodstock festival, 1970s women's liberation movements, the 1973 global energy crisis, and the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
  • Millennials - The HIV/AIDS crisis, 1986 Chernobyl disaster, 1987 stock market crash, fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
  • Gen Z - 2000 Y2K scare, 9/11 attacks in 2001, Iraq War starting in 2003, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama elected president in 2008, legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, COVID-19 pandemic beginning in 2019.

You can see how major historical events during these formative years likely shaped societal perspectives to some degree for each generation.

Compelling Generational Messages

What were some of the compelling societal messages dominating during these generations’ upbringings? Figure 4 shows an overview.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Overview of compelling generational messages.

During the formative years of each generation, they experienced significant historical events that shaped their perspectives and beliefs.


The traditionalists, born before 1946, witnessed events like the Hindenburg tragedy and World War II, which emphasized sacrifice and unity for the common good. They were told to "make do or do without" and to be heroic during challenging times. Their technology was limited to the transistor radio, which provided them with news and information.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, saw the desegregation shift in major sports like baseball when Jackie Robinson joined the Major leagues. They lived through significant events like the Korean War and the assassination of President Kennedy. They were encouraged with messages that they could change the world and work together for a better future. The introduction of the first transistor radio allowed them to access real-time information.

Generation X

Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, witnessed the moon landing and Woodstock, events that influenced their sense of exploration and questioning authority. They experienced the energy crisis and the advent of personal computers. They were encouraged to be independent, question authority, and were told that heroes don't exist. The introduction of personal computers provided them with a new way to explore information.


Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, lived through events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They received messages that they were special, should achieve now, and be good citizens. The education system became more inclusive, and they were connected 24/7 through the internet. The expansion of technology, particularly the internet, provided them with access to vast information.

Generation Z

Gen Z, born after 1997, grew up in a culturally diverse and globally connected world. They became adept at multitasking and had instant access to information through smartphones and the internet. They received messages of empowerment and inclusivity. Technology, especially smartphones and portable devices, became an integral part of their lives. Each generation's experiences and the messages they received during their formative years contributed to shaping their unique characteristics, perspectives, and attitudes toward the world around them.

These events and messages played a crucial role in molding each generation's values, beliefs, and understanding of the society they grew up in.

Challenges Vs. Opportunities

  • Baby boomers or Traditionalists can see younger employees as children and act parental.
  • Gen X or Gen Y in management may treat older employees as parents/grandparents.
  • Managers not holding them accountable.
  • Identifying and addressing these differences can reap the benefit of multi-generational strengths.

These generational differences understandably can pose significant workplace challenges. For example, there is a tendency for older employees to view younger workers almost as their own children, acting in a parental rather than professional manner of accountability.

Conversely, when younger employees step into leadership roles overseeing older staff, they may feel as if they are managing their parents or grandparents. It takes substantial emotional intelligence and communication skills to navigate these multi-generational dynamics. 

For managers and HR professionals especially, it is crucial to understand and appreciate generational differences, along with the influences shaping various age groups. Subtle similarities exist across generations, and healthcare workplaces can benefit greatly when generational diversity is managed effectively, drawing out the unique skills and talents of each age group more fully than a homogenous workforce could. Understanding how to lead different generations and tailor to their needs can foster greater harmony and satisfaction.

Strategies to Effectively Lead and Manage the Various Generations in the Workplace

Understanding the different generations' values and preferences in the workforce can lead to more effective and harmonious interactions.

For Gen Z, active listening and valuing their input are crucial, as they often think outside the box and have unique perspectives. Offering creative work environments can attract them to an organization, especially as they are projected to make up a significant portion of the future workforce.


  • Value their experience
  • Spend adequate time in orientation and training activities
  • Extra time w/ technology
  • Respect common norms of courtesy

For veterans or traditionalists, it's crucial to recognize the value of their experience and provide adequate training to adapt to technological changes. Respecting their preferences for face-to-face interactions and common norms of courtesy fosters a positive work environment for them.

Baby Boomers

  • Show them how they can be an organizational star
  • Provide them with developmental opportunities
  • Involve them in operational matters.
  • Phased Retirement
  • Health / Wellness Programs

Baby boomers appreciate recognition and involvement in operational matters, and offering flexible work options and health and wellness programs can help retain them.

Generation X

  • Partner them with mentors that they respect
  • Promote work/life balance
  • Refrain from giving them too much extended hands-on supervision.
  • Reward for productivity

Gen Xers thrive when partnered with respected older colleagues and prefer a work-life balance. Providing clear instructions and allowing them autonomy in their tasks enhances their productivity.

Generation Y/Millennials

  • Provide them with structure
  • Be generous with training and orientation activities
  • Partner them with boomers as mentors

For millennials, structured training and orientation activities are essential, and pairing them with boomer mentors can be beneficial. Listening to their ideas, encouraging creativity, and providing spaces for them to be innovative cater to their preferences.

Generation Z

  • Channel their creativity/Listen to their ideas
  • Encourage them to communicate outside of technology 
  • Provide pleasant working environments
  • Projected to make up the largest % of the workforce by 2025

For Gen Z, active listening and valuing their input are crucial, as they often think outside the box and have unique perspectives. Offering creative work environments can attract them to an organization, especially as they are projected to make up a significant portion of the future workforce.

The Generations At Work

  • Not everybody in the workplace is motivated by the same things anymore.
  • Getting the most out of each generation requires flexibility.
  • When companies get it, both the company and the employees win.

It is important to recognize that not all employees are motivated by the same factors. This allows organizations to be flexible and cater to the needs of each generation. When companies understand and meet these needs, it leads to a win-win situation, reducing turnover and fostering a positive and productive work environment. By acknowledging and adapting to the preferences of different generations, organizations can create a more cohesive and successful workforce.

Evidence of Conflicts

  • “They have no work ethic. They’re a bunch of slackers.”
  • “So I told my boss, if you’re looking for loyalty, buy a dog.”
  • “If I hear, ‘We tried that in ‘87 one more time, I’ll hurl.’”
  • "I have a new rule. I will not attend meetings that start after 5 PM - I have a life.”
  • “Lighten up! Work should be fun.”
  • “Many of the interviewers did not understand my windy path through employment, which is, of course, a characteristic of my generation. They didn’t understand I wasn’t looking for one job for the rest of my life and that I wasn’t looking for money and status.”

When encountering statements or attitudes like "they have no work ethic" or "they're a bunch of slackers," especially if they are attributed to specific generational groups, it may indicate a lack of understanding and communication between different generations in the workplace. These perceptions can stem from stereotypes and generalizations that may not accurately represent individuals within those groups. Such sentiments suggest a need for better intergenerational understanding and collaboration.

The expression "if you're looking for loyalty, buy a dog" reflects a desire for a more meaningful and purpose-driven work experience, where employees seek reasons behind tasks and may challenge traditional hierarchical structures. This kind of attitude might arise from the perspective of a younger generation seeking more fulfillment and growth in their careers.

Furthermore, individuals from different generations may have diverse career paths and expectations. Some may prefer stability and loyalty to one employer, while others seek varied experiences and opportunities for personal and professional development. Understanding these differences is essential for organizations to attract and retain the right talent.

It is crucial for employers to be mindful of the language used during interviews and the questions asked to attract individuals who align with the organization's long-term goals and values. Recognizing and valuing diverse career paths and motivations can lead to a more inclusive and harmonious work environment where employees from all generations can thrive. Building bridges of understanding and open communication between generations can foster a culture of respect and collaboration, ultimately benefiting the organization as a whole.

Generational Perspectives: A Quiz 

Let’s explore our own generational perspectives a bit. I will ask some simple poll questions where you can select the choice that best fits you (Poll generated during the live event).

1. Which of the following is your preferred communication style in the office?

A. In person

B. Phone/e-mail

C. E-mail/texting

D. Texting

The majority of respondents prefer in-person communication, followed by phone/email. Only a small percentage favors just texting. This indicates a preference for personal interaction over digital-only contact.

2. How do you define your work-life balance?  

A. I don’t have one: long hours to maintain job security

B. I don’t have one: long hours = identity/sense of contribution

C. I have a balance

D. I’m working on it

Most respondents are working on achieving better balance, implying a desire for greater equilibrium. Very few view work as fully defining their identity. Over a third believe they have attained a good work-life blend, which provides hope it is possible.

3. What is your idea of a reward for a job well done?

A. Pat on the back

B. Money, title, recognition

C. Freedom – day off

D. More meaningful work/projects

The top choice was monetary or title/recognition rewards – extrinsic, tangible forms of appreciation. Almost equal numbers favor more freedom/time off or simply verbal praise. A smaller but meaningful segment finds meaningful work itself the biggest reward. 

4. Why would you change jobs or companies?

A. Wouldn’t - company loyalty

B. To do something different

C. It’s necessary

D. Routine

No one would change jobs routinely as part of strategic career planning. The reasons were evenly split between required moves for more money or different opportunities and loyalty to a current workplace. This conveys both pragmatic and idealistic motivations for leaving a position.

Overall these informal polling questions can provide insights into multigenerational preferences that may inform management approaches for optimal satisfaction. Hearing directly from employees is ideal.

Challenges for Managers

What do members of each generation seek that managers can address?

Figure 5

Figure 5. Challenges for managers for each generation.

Each generation presents unique challenges for managers and supervisors in the workplace. Understanding the different outlooks and characteristics of each generation can help managers tailor their leadership approach and create a harmonious work environment.


For traditionalists, managers should recognize their dedication to work and value their experience. Providing adequate training and orientation, especially in the face of changing technology, will ensure their success in the evolving workplace.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, driven and ambitious, thrive when given opportunities to showcase their skills and be involved in operational matters. Offering phased retirement or flexible work options can help retain their expertise while respecting their desire for work-life balance.

Generation X

Gen Xers appreciate competent leaders and desire a balanced work-life approach. Managers should give them space to excel and avoid excessive supervision, acknowledging their competence and providing clear expectations.


Millennials prefer collaborative leadership and a sense of equality within the team. Managers should focus on building strong teams and recognizing individual contributions. Offering flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, and opportunities for personal growth can boost their loyalty and engagement.

Generation Z

Gen Zs seek respect and authenticity in relationships with authority figures. Coaching and mentoring programs, with experienced colleagues rather than direct supervisors, can help them navigate the workplace and develop their potential.

Managers should be mindful of factors that may turn off each generation, such as vulgarity for traditionalists, political incorrectness for baby boomers, cliques for Gen Xers, cynicism for millennials, and inequality for Gen Zs. Being sensitive to these preferences can foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Recruiting and Retaining Talent

  • Time off as opposed to increased compensation
  • Wellness Programs
  • Mentoring
  • Opportunities for remote work

To recruit and retain talent, offering time off, wellness programs, and mentoring opportunities can be effective strategies. Providing opportunities for remote work, where feasible, can also cater to the increasing desire for flexibility among different generations.

By understanding and adapting to the diverse needs and perspectives of each generation, managers can create a cohesive and productive workforce, leading to greater job satisfaction and reduced turnover.

To recruit and retain our Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zs, there are some specific strategies.

Generation X at Work: Recruit and Retain

  • Show them lots of options for their workplace schedule.
  • Allow them to work autonomously.
  • Tap into their adaptability. Generation Xers are typically flexible, and many are independent operators. Give them an important task that needs to get done; they’ll likely get it handled!
  • Give FAST (Frequent, Accurate, Specific, Timely) feedback in order for them to build their skills and improve their resumes.

Gen Xers highly value workplace schedule options and flexibility, allowing them to work autonomously and adapt to different situations effectively. When assigning them important tasks, it's essential to give them the necessary time to accomplish them.

In terms of feedback, the FAST acronym is ideal—providing frequent, accurate, specific, and timely feedback helps them develop their skills and seize greater opportunities for growth.

Millennials / Gen Z at Work: Recruit and Retain

  • Tap an outstanding employee from the Millennial or Gen Z Generation to talk to the candidate about the company.
  • Provide flexibility to allow them to pursue their many outside interests.
  • Get them involved in meaningful volunteer efforts. These workers are community-oriented and are graduates of required community service hours.
  • Count them in on benefits like 401(k) plans. Millennials and Gen Z are financially savvy.
  • Use their capability to access and share information quickly. This is the most technologically and globally aware generation.
  • Pair them up with older mentors.
  • Help them learn interpersonal skills for the workplace. They may need to be rescued from difficult situations while they develop these skills.

For millennials and Gen Zs, certain factors can encourage them to stay in the workplace. Ensuring diverse representation during the talent attraction process is crucial; they appreciate having someone from their generation who can relate to them during interviews. Flexibility remains a significant appeal, and incorporating volunteer efforts aligns with their civic-mindedness. Providing opportunities for one paid day to engage in community-oriented projects resonates well with them.

These generations are financially savvy, so discussing 401K plans and other benefits is important, especially since many may have student loans to manage. Utilizing technology for information sharing is essential, given their tech-savviness. Mentoring programs can assist in nurturing their interpersonal skills, as they might excel with technology but require guidance in social situations.

What is in Common? 

  • Flexibility is important regarding work-life balance.
  • The highest indicator of satisfaction is to feel valued on the job.
  • Career development is a high priority.
  • A supportive work environment where they are recognized and appreciated with rewards for results.
  • And, most importantly, all generations value trust and want respect.

All of our groups share common desires and priorities. They value flexibility and work-life balance, seeking job satisfaction and feeling valued in their roles. Understanding the rewards that motivate each individual is essential for effective management. Career development is particularly significant for the younger generations, as they aspire to progress and achieve their goals within the organization. A supportive work environment, where recognition and rewards align with their values, is crucial. They also appreciate being trusted and respected, and in turn, they reciprocate that trust and respect to their colleagues. Building a workplace that caters to these common needs can enhance employee satisfaction and retention across all generations.

General Strategies

  • Provide structure
  • Provide leadership/guidance/coaching
  • Create Opportunity for “Can do Attitude” – Set up Success
  • Reward Team Work
  • Provide Work/Life Balance
  • Seek Feedback/Listen
  • Employee Centered Workplace

General strategies for managing and guiding these generations include providing a structured environment with clear expectations. Adopting a coaching approach to leadership rather than a rigid directive style is beneficial. When giving feedback, it's essential to recognize and highlight their strengths. Creating a culture that allows for learning from mistakes and turning them into valuable lessons is crucial. Rewarding teamwork and recognizing the contributions of the entire team, rather than solely focusing on individuals, aligns well with the collaborative nature of younger generations. By implementing these strategies, managers can foster a positive and productive work environment for Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zs.

Professional Communication

  • Essential for Working Relationships
  • Correlated with Positive Patient Outcomes
  • Healthcare Workers Satisfaction or Stress
  • Patient Safety
  • Public Satisfaction

Effective communication has been linked to positive patient outcomes, increased worker satisfaction, improved safety, and a positive perception of our organizations in the public domain. Various communication style inventories are available to assess and enhance communication skills.

Self Assessment of Personal Communication Style

  • When is the last time you took the time to assess your own communication style?
  • What color is your brain?
    • Based on the work of Sheila Glazov
    • Brief assessment with no right or wrong answers
    • The outcome provides you with your dominant brain color
  • https://www.sheilaglazov.com/brain-quizzes/

You may be familiar with popular communication style assessments like Myers-Briggs, but I would recommend exploring a different one based on the work of Sheila Glaszov. This brief assessment is easy to take, and there are no right or wrong answers. By participating in these free brain quizzes or color brain quizzes, you can discover your dominant communication style outcome.

Four Distinct Brain Colors

  • Yellow Brainers are responsible, organized, stressed w/ disorganization, and direct communicators; 30-40% of people
  • Blue Brainers are communicative, helpful, tend to over-extend themselves, yet are inspirational; 30-40% of people
  • Green Brainers are logical, independent, stressed when they do not have adequate resources and value efficiency; 10-15% of people
  • Orange Brainers are dynamic, fun-loving, more informal communication style, and do not like monotony; 10-15% of people

According to this inventory, there are four distinct brain colors, with yellow and blue brains being the most predominant, making up around 30 to 40% of the population each. Yellow brain individuals are known for their responsibility and organizational skills. They prefer direct communication and appreciate receiving factual information.

On the other hand, blue brain individuals are communicative, helpful, and often inspirational. They have a tendency to overextend themselves in their efforts to assist others.

Green brain individuals, comprising about 10 to 15% of the population, are described as logical, independent, and efficient. They value having adequate resources and can experience stress when faced with insufficient support.

The remaining 10 to 15% of the population are orange brains. They are dynamic, fun-loving, and prefer an informal communication style. Orange brains are often creative individuals who enjoy storytelling when sharing information, and they thrive in environments that offer variety and avoid monotony.

It's worth noting that individuals may possess a specific brain color regardless of their generational affiliation, as brain color and work style can differ even within the same generation.

Ideal Conditions in the Workplace

  • Once you determine your dominance and the dominance of those on the team, you can create work conditions that play to the strengths of the team members
  • Remember People Thrive when their attributes and abilities are acknowledged

Acknowledging and embracing the diversity of communication styles in the workplace can have a significant impact on both effective communication and potential miscommunication. When individuals are aware of their dominant communication style and recognize the dominant styles of their colleagues, leaders, managers, and team members, this can create a work environment that capitalizes on the strengths of each individual.

By understanding and appreciating the unique attributes and abilities of each team member, leaders can tailor work conditions to allow employees to thrive in their roles. This recognition fosters a positive work culture that values and encourages individual styles, leading to improved communication, collaboration, and overall team performance.

When individuals feel acknowledged and supported in their particular communication style, they are more likely to feel engaged and motivated in their work, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction. Embracing diversity in communication styles can create a cohesive and harmonious workplace that maximizes the potential of all team members.

When Communicating To:

  • Yellow Brainers
    • Be Polite and punctual
    • Respect their personal values of organization and rules
    • Stay on track
    • Tell them all the details
    • Encourage them to talk about their achievements
  • Blue Brainers
    • Show you are actively Listening
    • Respect their emotions
    • Use stories to explain your point of view
    • Connect with them personally
    • Encourage them to talk about their family
  • Green Brainers
    • Do not make small talk
    • Respect their privacy
    • Be brief, but informative
    • Give them lots of data and statistics
    • Encourage them to talk about their knowledge and offer solutions
  • Orange Brainers
    • Be direct
    • Respect their spontaneity
    • Make your point quickly
    • Give them the results, not facts and figures
    • Encourage them to talk about their personal lives (hobbies or vacations)

Tailoring communication to the different dominant brain styles can greatly enhance understanding and collaboration in the workplace. When communicating with yellow-brained individuals, it's essential to be polite, punctual, and organized, as they value structure and adherence to rules. Staying on track and providing details while encouraging discussions about their achievements can be effective strategies to engage them.

For those with a dominant blue brain, active listening is crucial, as they often express emotions and appreciate stories. Connecting with them personally and showing interest in their lives outside of work fosters a positive rapport.

Conversely, green-brained individuals prefer brief and informative communication, focusing on data and statistics. Encouraging discussions about their knowledge and proposed solutions aligns well with their style.

Orange-brained individuals prefer direct communication and tend to be spontaneous. Providing quick, results-focused messages without delving into extensive facts and figures is more effective when interacting with them. Engaging in conversations about hobbies, vacations, and personal lives can help build rapport with orange-brained individuals.

By understanding and adapting communication approaches to these dominant brain styles, leaders, managers, and team members can promote a more harmonious and productive work environment where each individual feels acknowledged and valued for their unique attributes and preferences.

How to Stay Motivated

  • Yellow Brainers
    • Keeping a positive attitude
    • Scheduling time off to re-charge
    • Taking on a new task: "I know I can do it”
  • Blue Brainers:
    • Performing tasks they enjoy doing
    • Developing friendships with other team members
    • Tapping into their creativity
  • Green Brainers
    • Taking continuing education classes
    • Being able to research new ideas
    • Scheduling time to read books and articles
  • Orange Brainers
    • Doing something new each day
    • Scheduling time for fun and exercise
    • Enjoying social activities with team members outside of work

To effectively motivate individuals with specific dominant brain mindsets, it is essential to understand their preferences and tailor the motivational approach accordingly.

For yellow-brained individuals, creating a positive work environment, acknowledging their organizational skills and adherence to rules, and providing time off for rejuvenation are key factors. Assigning tasks that align with their optimistic outlook and validating their confidence in their abilities will also boost their motivation.

For blue-brained individuals, encouraging them to focus on tasks they enjoy and excel at, fostering positive social interactions within the team, and tapping into their creativity are important strategies. Offering projects that inspire them and allow them to showcase their inspirational abilities will further motivate them.

Green-brained individuals thrive on learning and logical thinking. Providing opportunities for continuing education, encouraging exploration of new ideas, and offering tasks involving data analysis and critical thinking will keep them motivated. Allowing time for them to engage in learning activities that promote growth is equally essential.

For orange-brained individuals, incorporating novelty and new experiences into their daily tasks, scheduling fun and social activities, and involving them in planning and organizing social events are effective ways to keep them motivated. Providing opportunities for them to take on exciting challenges regularly will further fuel their enthusiasm.

By recognizing and catering to the unique preferences and strengths of each dominant brain style, leaders and managers can create a motivational work environment where team members feel valued and engaged, leading to increased job satisfaction and overall performance improvement.

Motivating Others- Often The Way You Are Wired

  • Yellow Brain
    • Praise/acknowledge achievements
    • Demonstrate excellence
    • Expect the best from the team
  • Green Brain
    • Set reasonable goals
    • Offer incentive or education
    • Fair feedback
  • Blue Brain
    • Good job gifts
    • Share inspirational stories
    • Showing interest in life outside work
  • Orange Brain
    • Team celebrations
    • Contests w/in department
    • Giving pep talks

Understanding how to motivate others is crucial because people's preferences for motivation can differ significantly. It's a common mistake to assume that what motivates us will work for others. Tailoring motivational approaches to individual brain styles can yield better results.

For yellow-brained individuals, praise and recognition for their achievements are powerful motivators. They appreciate when their excellence is acknowledged and expect the best from their team.

Blue-brained individuals value tangible rewards and gifts as symbols of appreciation. Sharing inspirational stories, both personal and from others, can boost their motivation. Showing interest in their life outside of work also fosters a positive connection.

Green-brained individuals thrive when goals are reasonable and attainable, with incentives to work towards. They value fair and balanced feedback, encompassing both positive recognition and constructive criticism.

Orange-brained individuals excel when team celebrations and fun contests are organized within the department. Pep talks and encouragement make them excellent cheerleaders within the workforce.

By recognizing and catering to these unique preferences, leaders can create a motivating work environment where individuals feel valued, leading to increased engagement and overall productivity.


  • Strive to develop empathy and understanding of generational characteristics – ultimately, the organization will be more effective and profitable
  • Team diversity can breed great success – this variety of experience provides essential tools to handle challenges faced by an organization
  • We do not all communicate the same nor do we see situations from the same point of view.
  • Becoming knowledgeable of the differences can allow us to enjoy the rainbow of generational cohorts and brain colors in today’s workplace.

In conclusion, the key takeaways from this presentation emphasize the importance of developing empathy and understanding for the different generations within our organizations. Respecting and embracing the diversity of communication styles and experiences in the workplace can lead to enhanced effectiveness and profitability. By fostering diverse teams with people of different ages and brain colors, we gain valuable tools to overcome various challenges.

Recognizing that we all have unique ways of communicating and perceiving the world, shaped by our experiences and upbringing, enables us to respect and appreciate one another. Becoming knowledgeable about our differences allows us to build stronger connections based on generational and brain dominance attributes, ultimately bringing out the best in our workplace.

For further reference, the sources used in creating this presentation are listed. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at the provided address. Thank you for your time and attention.


Arrington, G., & Dwyer, R. (2018). Can four generations create harmony within a public-sector environment? International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, 17:1, 1-21.

Baik, D., Blakeney, E. A-R., Willgerodt, M., Woodard, N., Vogel, M., & Zierler, B. (2018). Examining interprofessional team interventions designed to improve nursing and team outcomes in practice: A descriptive and methodological review. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 32, 719-727. https://doi.org/10.1080.13561820.2018.1505714

Christensen, S. S., Wilson, B. L., & Edelman, L. S. (2018). Can I relate? A review and guide for nurse managers in leading generations. J Nurs Manag, 00:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/jonm.12601

Clark, K. R. (2017) Managing multiple generations in the workplace. Radiol Technol, 88(4):379-396. PMID: 28298496.

Glazov, S., & Knoblauch, D. (Eds.). (2015). What color Is your brain? When caring for patients: An easy approach for understanding your personality type and your patient’s perspective. SLACK Incorporated.

Hisel, M.E. (2020) Measuring work engagement in a multigenerational nursing workforce. Journal of Nursing Management, 28(2), 294-305.

Lewis, L. F., & Wescott, H. D. (2017). Multi-generational workforce: Four generations united in lean. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 8(3), 1.


Provident, I. (2023)Multiple generations in the workplace: Effective communication to enhance diversity. OccupationalTherapy.com, Article 5627. Available at https://OccupationalTherapy.com

To earn CEUs for this article, become a member.

unlimited ceu access $129/year

Join Now

ingrid provident

Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Ingrid M. Provident Ed.D, OTR/L, FAOTA, is a National Education Specialist, for Select Rehabilitation. Dr. Provident has held positions of Program Coordinator, Academic Fieldwork Coordinator, and Associate Professor at major Universities in Pittsburgh, PA.

Ingrid is a highly engaging speaker who holds clinical degrees in Occupational Therapy and Educational Leadership. She has worked in multiple practice settings with the adult and geriatric populations.

Ingrid has been an educator in formal academic settings and presented in more than 70 state, national and international venues. Dr. Provident has facilitated multiple presentations on wellness, communication, and health care. She is a published author and mentor with a passion for assisting in the development of professionals.


Related Courses

Multiple Generations In The Workplace: Effective Communication To Enhance Diversity
Presented by Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Course: #5971Level: Introductory1 Hour
There are very different generations in the workplace and getting these groups to work together effectively is challenging. It is important to first understand each of these groups based on their strengths to bring out the beauty of diversity for the overarching purpose of preventing generational collisions from occurring in the workplace. This presentation will present a way to identify communication preferences and effective ways to approach others that have different viewpoints.

Healthy Transitions: An Opportunity For OT Intervention
Presented by Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Course: #6202Level: Intermediate1 Hour
Transitions in life are a natural part of being human; however, navigating change isn’t always easy. Facing the unknown can sometimes cause feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, worry, or depression. Occupational therapists are uniquely qualified to assist people in navigating transitions at various stages of life.

Mindfulness And Emotional Intelligence
Presented by Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Course: #5732Level: Intermediate1 Hour
Mindfulness can be used in personal and work settings to recenter the body and mind from anxiety and stress into calm. Mindfulness action builds upon one’s emotional intelligence and allows focused, productive responses to situations beyond one’s control. The practice of learning to be present and non-judgmental can be life-changing.

Substance Misuse In The Elderly And Use Of Screening, Brief Intervention, And Referral To Treatment (SBIRT)
Presented by Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Course: #6062Level: Intermediate1 Hour
Substance use disorders are a significant problem in the elderly population. Studies have shown that elderly patients with substance use disorders have very good outcomes when diagnosed and treatment is initiated using SBIRT, a technique incorporating Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral for Intervention.

Ethics Using An Occupational Therapy Lens To Investigate Moral Distress And Practice Dilemmas
Presented by Ingrid Provident, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Course: #6064Level: Intermediate2 Hours
Ethics is the foundation of professional practice yet therapists may experience moral distress and make less than ethical decisions when emotional issues, toxic work conditions, or low morale are unchecked. This presentation will overview the code of ethics and present clinical situations to challenge the participant to understand best practices in ethical decision-making.

Our site uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our site, you agree to our Privacy Policy.