Younger managers rise in the ranks

Members of each generation: perceived characteristics

  • Share

Analyzing perceptions: Positive and negative characteristics of members of each generation

In an effort to gauge how members of each generation are perceived in the workplace, survey respondents were asked which positive and negative characteristics they felt each generation displayed.

Members of each generation that "best" display the following characteristics

EY - Members of each generation - perceived characteristics

(To see additional charts from the survey findings, download the full version.)

Gen X

  • Compared with other generations, members of Gen X achieved the top scores in being considered a "productive part of my organization" (73%), a "team player" (65%) and "nurturing and essential for development opportunities" (56%).
  • In addition, when asked which generation is the "best" at displaying select positive characteristics, respondents cited members of Gen X most frequently in seven out of 11 attributes. Examples include being a "revenue generator" (58%) and "relationship builder" (53%), as well as possessing traits of "adaptability" (49%), "problem-solving" (57%) and "collaboration" (53%). However, members of Gen X lag behind boomers in being perceived as "best" at displaying executive presence (28% vs. 66%) and being cost effective (34% vs. 59%).
  • They were least likely to be considered "difficult to work with" (16%) or "cynical and condescending" (29%).

Gen Y

  • Members of Gen Y were viewed as the "best" at being "tech savvy" (78%) and being social media opportunists, or leveraging social media beyond marketing (70%) – the two largest endorsements any generation received. Gen Y also scored higher than boomers for being the "best" at "collaboration" (27% vs. 20%), "adaptability" (41% vs. 10%) and being "entrepreneurial" (29% vs. 15%).
  • Support for Gen Y to manage in 2020 nearly doubles, according to survey respondents, but this generation needs to improve several characteristics to get there. Members of Gen Y scored high marks for being "enthusiastic" (68% agree) but had lower scores than other generations for being perceived as a "team player" (45%), "hardworking" (39%) and "a productive part of my organization" (58%).
  • They also scored highest in three out of four negative traits in the survey, such as being perceived as "difficult to work with" (36%), "entitled" (68%) and "lacking relevant experience" (59%). Yet it’s interesting to note that members of every generation view their own generation as entitled to a degree, including 60% Gen Y, 49% Gen X and 27% boomers.


  • Boomers scored high in being a productive part of organizations (69%), "hardworking" (73%, the highest), a "team player" (56%), and nurturing and essential for others’ development (55%).
  • While members of the boomer generation were strong performers in most areas, they were not viewed as the "best" generation in areas such as being adaptable (10%); collaborative (20%); social media opportunists (6%); and "brand ambassadors," or leveraging various channels (e.g., social media platforms, speaking engagements) to build an emotional connection and engagement with a brand (16%).
  • Boomers are considered the least "tech savvy" (27%) of the three generations, and this attribute had the widest disparity among generations (a 58% gap between boomers and Gen Y).

Percentage that strongly/somewhat agree which generation is best at displaying a characteristic

EY - Members of each generation - perceived characteristics ×