The ‘kids these days effect’ on Happiness at Work

Jul 19, 2021

The question is: How do we approach the age gap when it comes to happiness at work? With currently 4 generations in the workplace, this is a challenge that most leaders face.

Mal Fletcher, author and business leadership expert says that ‘building a better future will depend on our ability to appreciate generational differences’.

Truth is, complaining about the younger generations is a long-established prerogative of the older ones. Seniors tend to believe that juniors lack the traits they themselves possess in abundance. But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

Generations differ on what makes them happy in life in general. Happiness at work is indeed viewed differently by age too. According to a survey report conducted by Instant Offices:

  • Baby Boomers aim for job security and let employees dictate the path of their careers. They want a boss that is ethical, fair and coherent.
  • Generation X aspires to achieve a work life balance. They believe team consensus is important and are loyal to their professions. This does not mean that they will stick with the same employees for a long period of time.
  • Generation Y – the so well-known Millennials – looks out for freedom and flexibility. 8 in 10 Millennials want a manager that acts as a mentor and/or coach.
  • Generation Z aspires to have security and stability.


Lewis Mumford, an American historian, sociologist and philosopher of technology who won the Leonardo da Vince Medal award once said: ‘every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers’, and that is what we are observing with Generation X, falling into the same pattern of values and beliefs than the Baby Boomers.


When looking at generational conflict in the workplace, it is important to have one concept not only in mind but also in the field: the Emotional Salary. It refers to a non-monetary remuneration, something that employees value more than money and offers something that money can’t buy. It aims at promoting positive emotions in the employees and, when it is personalized, it is efficient when it comes to motivation. So, let’s forget the one-size-fits-all benefits programs. Benefits a la carte, a rewards strategy that allows employees to select specific benefits that accommodate their lifestyle is a good option.


However, good news is that despite their differences, the same report also mentions some common things these generations value and, in fact, reflect what an emotional salary in its essence is: does not need financial investment and makes employees feel valued:


  1. Lifestyle benefits such as flexible schedules and flexible work – The standard 9 to 5 work schedule is in pure decline, specially with the boost on remote work that the pandemic brought to us. People have figured out that their days can be so much more productive and less expensive with less commute. Also, being in the office for the sake of it can be a waste of time, so performance evaluations focused on results and not so much on the amount of hours worked is of great importance.
  2. Having an impact – The so called ‘purpose’. The human being in general wants to feel connected to a reason of existence. Want to feel that their job is an extension of themselves and that it impacts positively society and everyone around them.
  3. Appreciation – Companies with a good recognition of achievement program have lower staff turnover.
  4. Professional development opportunities – the human being is eager to feel progress and is innate in us to keep seeking growth.
  5. Corporate Wellbeing – A good work environment and company values that match their own personal values.


And how do we promote corporate wellbeing amid generational conflict?


  • We acknowledge it and talk about it with transparency.
  • We look out for the positive and appreciate it. We focus on the ‘why’, not the ‘what’ and work on common needs.
  • We accept different approaches and agree on how to accommodate them.
  • We leverage Positive Psychology and maximize the strengths of each generation instead of trying to correct their weaknesses.
  • We show up to solve it. At all times. Never turning a blind eye.


Happiness at work is not about giving but rather about letting employees feel and be who they are. And that is transversal to all ages.


Every generation needs regeneration’, that’s how society moves forward.


Madalena Carey
Founder at Happiness Business School