In all matters of opinion and science . . . the difference
between men is . . . oftener found to lie in generals than in
particulars, and to be less in reality than in appearance.
An explanation of the terms commonly ends the controversy,
and the disputants are surprised to ﬁnd that they had been
quarreling, while at the bottom they agreed in their judgement.
—DAVID HUME (1711–1766), Essays Moral,
Political, and Literary, 1875
So this book explains (when possible) what you can do to retire
the generation gap and why you should. In each chapter, you’ll ﬁnd
• A description of the issue
• A description of our research on the issue
• The principal conclusion of the research expressed as a
• Our best take on how to apply the principle to make cross-
generational work life easier for you
By the end you should know what your employees and col-
leagues at work are really saying when they cry “Generation gap!”
and what you can do to “retire the gap” so you can address the real
We don’t promise that you’re going to like everything we say—
in fact we’re sure that just about everyone is going to object to
something in this book. But when we say things that offend you,
please understand that it is not our intention to offend; we are sim-
ply trying to understand how one part of the world works, and
good science sometimes leads to unexpected—and sometimes un-
About the Research
When you’re reading about the conclusions of any research pro-
ject, it is often difﬁcult to know what you should believe and what
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
—ATTRIBUTED BY MARK TWAIN TO DISRAELI
Sometimes it is nearly impossible to tell when people are ma-
nipulating data to sell their theory (or their product or their po-
litical agenda). Therefore, we promise the following:
DO NOT PASS GO WITHOUT READING THIS CHAPTER! 3
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• Our results are as accurate as we can possibly make them; we
aren’t playing games with the statistics to support a particular
position. If the data had shown that older people are fossilized
and younger people are slackers, we would have reported that
• Our conclusions are drawn from our best understanding of
the results as a whole. We aren’t taking one result in isolation
and building a whole theory around it.
• Our recommendations are based on our best understanding
of the results and include knowledge gleaned from many
other researchers, consultants, and organizational scientists.
• The quotations we use are entirely accurate and are drawn
from our database. We have not altered the quotations for ef-
fect, though we have corrected spelling when the original was
difﬁcult to read.
• The stories we use are all true. We couldn’t believe that people
would actually do some of these things, but they did.
We also need to take some time to tell you about the people
who participated in this survey, because they are not representa-
tive of everyone everywhere in the United States. Understanding
who ﬁlled out the survey will help you understand how far you can
generalize the results, so please bear with us for the next few pages.
As of the publication of this book, more than 5,800 people
have participated in this research. Of that number, 3,200 who were
both born in and are currently living in the United States were in-
cluded in the research for this book. Those who either were born
outside or are currently living outside the United States (the other
2,600) were not included because explaining every similarity and
difference of generations for the rest of the world in addition to
the United States would have made the book far too long. We may
be using their data for another book in the future.
Although the database comprises 3,200 respondents, not every
one of those individuals ﬁlled out every part of the survey. The re-
sults we report are based on the total number of people who re-
sponded to an item (not necessarily the total 3,200). For example,
only 2,732 people responded to the question about retention, so
those results are based on 2,732 respondents. Also, we didn’t ask
speciﬁc questions about change or respect in the workplace, so the
4 RETIRING THE GENERATION GAP
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