Is Age Diversity in the Workplace a Pro or Con?

According to a study by Virgin Pulse, 40% of office workers stated that their coworkers were the primary reason that they loved their job.workforce

The modern office is a melting pot of different genders, educational backgrounds, cultural backgrounds and ages. Today, Gen Y or Millennials (born 1980s-2000s) make up about 14% of the workforce, with Baby Boomers looming largest at 33% of the US working population. While perhaps not immediately noticeable, age can be a potentially challenging and polarizing factor in the office. As you evaluate your next career move, and look to find the coworkers that will help you love your job, it’s important to look at the pros and cons of working in an age-diverse workplace.


Working with people who have different skill sets

Each employee has a different set of skills that they use to excel in their position. Some are based on the employee’s educational background, others on the employee’s hobbies and interests, and still more may be based on their age and generation. For instance, consider that a Millennial may have finely developed typing, email etiquette and mobile application skills, but they may not have yet developed experience running meetings or writing professionally. In a diverse workplace, you will have the opportunity to work with people of all ages who excel in different things, which can promote a great learning environment.

Greater opportunity for mentorship

This is not difficult to understand. Especially for young professionals, the choice of your mentor can greatly help your career progress and accelerate. In an office environment that encourages age diversity, you will have the opportunity to seek out and get to know professionals with many more years of experience who could become your next mentor.

Exposure to diverse opinions and perspectives

Successful businesses and their leaders understand the value of different opinions in the workplace. A company built entirely out of engineers may not excel at getting sales closed, PR mentions or customers served quickly and helpfully. One built entirely out of salespeople would probably not have a solidly built product. Diversity in experience, values, opinions and perspectives can bring to light new opportunities for business growth and acceleration, so having individuals with different amounts of life experiences and differing numbers of years in the workforce can be immensely helpful.


Communication can be difficult

As with any diverse population, environments with different generations cooperating towards one common goal may struggle to communicate and understand one another. This can be particularly evident when dealing with individuals from differing generations. In this case, it’s important to try to balance conflicting needs and opinions while always avoiding inflammatory language. Try to remember to always assume the best of your coworkers.

Possibility of personal prejudice

Each person’s background, including the age that they grew up in, can predispose them to certain prejudices. The workplaces in the 1960s were very different than they are today (just think of Mad Men!)  With issues of prejudice, it’s important to address them politely and openly while always escalating to management and human resources should there be an issue of extreme prejudice or harassment.

Exposure to diverse opinions and perspectives

Yes, you read that right. This can be a positive, as well as a negative, when considering your next workplace. Diverse opinions and perspectives, while being helpful in a constructive workplace, can also clutter an office and distract from the bottom-line by creating a hostile work environment. For this pro or con, how you approach your co-workers’ opinions and perspectives makes a large difference.

There is a large opportunity to learn and grow as both an employee and an organization in a workplace that employs individuals from all generations. However, age diversity, like any difference between employees, can at times negatively affect office dynamics. These aren’t true cons as much as they are difficulties that employers and employees have to be actively aware of and address. Rather than ask “Which environment is better?” this is an opportunity for you as a job seeker to understand which environment will work better for your temperament and personality.