What motivates you?  Why do you want one thing over another?   Are your basic needs being met?   These answers certainly are unique for each individual, but they may differ even more between different generations.    In this second installment of the dialogue about generational gaps, Mary (Baby Boomer), Henry (Gen X), and I, Shaina (Gen Y), explore what our basic needs are within our careers.  If you missed the first one, you can read it here

We first started by discussing Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which is represented in a triangle diagram. 

This can be broken into three major groups: basic needs (Physiological and Safety levels),   psychological needs (Belonging and Esteem levels), and then the final Self-Actualization needs such as feeling fulfilled and that you have met your potential.  The idea is that you cannot reach the top of the pyramid without providing for the needs below, i.e. you cannot be self-actualized while starving.  Obviously, we all need to meet our basic needs which are relatively similar for everyone regardless of generation, but what we learned about each other’s’ needs was quite interesting. 

Let us begin with assessing the Baby Boomer generation.  Mary started off by saying that there is a big difference in her needs now from when she was fully employed.   She continues to work in a consulting and mentoring capacity and it is extremely important for her to have a satisfying project that the organization has a need for, and that she has no interest in a “cut and paste” project.  In order to perform her best, she finds it important to understand the organization she is working for, but has no interest in working the typical nine-to-five day.  Of course, because she is sharing the wisdom of many years in multiple industries, there is an expectation to be paid well.   Ultimately, it appears that this generation is extremely focused on self-fulfillment. 

Next up to bat for the question was Henry.   In his opinion, as a generalization of his generation, most Generation Xers want to hold a title that comes with a certain degree of influence and control.  Titles that carry weight are significant to this generation. With that in mind, they are more interested in being a part of a healthy organization because of their phase in life.   Most folks in his peer group are looking toward retirement and have families to take care, and caring for those families is a high priority.  Because of that, there is a focus on the financial reward of a job, not just the pay, but the benefits as well.   Interestingly enough, Gen X does seem to be more interested in the psychological tier with a focus on prestige and relationships. 

Lastly, there are the Generation Y folks who are mostly in the beginning of their careers.   I believe, from assessing my peer group and my needs, that we are not necessarily driven by money but the possibility of growth and upward mobility.   Most of us are just jumping into the career world and are looking for mentors with experience to dispense.  Personally I have multiple mentors that have helped me find my way through this early stage of my career.   Much like the other generations, Generation Y does want recognition for their work.  Who doesn’t?    Many of this generation are also still very focused on their personal lives by building families, buying houses, and learning to support that, which on Maslow's hierarchy, may fall into the basic needs tier.

It did not occur to me until I actually sat down to write this that the needs of each consecutive generation, starting with the Baby Boomers, follow their way down the pyramid.  This in no way means that each group does not have needs in the other areas, but it does appear that in regards to their careers and what they work for, the pyramid strongly represented each group.

Next installment: how can Generation Y facilitate the needs of the other generations while fulfilling their own needs?  If you have any thoughts or comments on this, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The more input the better! 


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