Creating a “Gentelligent” Work Culture

Shifting the workforce mindset from generational competition to intergenerational cooperation.

With five generations in the workplace (Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers), conflict can arise among employees based on their perceptions and assumptions of the other generations. As people are healthier longer, they are working longer. Learning to “work together” is more complicated than ever before.

Tension and conflict affect productivity and satisfaction. Leaders need to understand how to leverage all the generations for recruitment, retention, and collaboration. “Gentelligence: The Revolutionary Approach to Leading an Intergenerational Workforce” by Megan Gerhardt, Josephine Nachemson-Ekwall, and Brandon Fogel is a great resource for leaders who need to learn how to shift the mindset from generational competition to intergenerational cooperation.


The authors define Gentelligence as “viewing generational differences as a unique source of diversity of thought.” The turmoil of the last few years has required organizational leaders to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But regardless of generation, ageism seems to be one of the last socially acceptable biases.

Baby Boomers often believe age discrimination is the reason for their not being hired. They can be considered to be not tech savvy, harder to train, resistant to change, and too set in their ways. According to the authors of “Gentelligence,” research does not support these labels. Likewise, ageism also takes place against younger workers. They can be considered disloyal, selfish, demanding, not receptive to criticism, and entitled. Again, research does not support these labels.


The authors discovered “that despite what many people believe, a number of values are shared across generations.” They advocate that these four workplace values are the foundation for building Gentelligent workplaces:

  1. Respect: Being valued by the organization
  2. Competence: Considered to be knowledgeable and skilled
  3. Connection: Collaborating/trusting employees
  4. Autonomy: Freedom to make decisions.

Leaders who understand generational differences can help all employees reach their full potential, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction.

Future “Leading Edge” columns will focus on key principles for creating a Gentelligent work culture.

Jann E. Freed, Ph.D.
Jann E. Freed, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, coach, and leadership development and change management consultant. Her most recent book is “Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts” (ATD, 2013). For more information, visit: