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January 2023

THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want

The gap

One topic that I frequently see discussed by top-level management is how to bridge the “generation gap”. It’s a very valid question, because even if there weren’t studies and surveys telling us there has been a dramatic shift in what people want—and expect—from work, most of us have observed this change in action in the workplace. The kind of incentives that appeal to the Baby Boomer generation simply don’t appeal in the same way to Generation Z, and vice versa.

It can be difficult when talking about the generation gap to see the picture clearly—and even more difficult to see what to do about it. This is because, firstly, we naturally tend to have a bias towards our own generation and its context. And secondly, we usually base our models of good practice on what the existing workplace culture is. We take cues from this existing culture and it becomes the “norm” which we expect others coming into the culture to acclimate to. We forget that the culture may be very abnormal for them!

Generations 1122 blog for it_ lindaINFOGRAPHIC DESIGN BY ANTONIO GRASSO

If we are able to take a step back, and look at each generation in turn, however, then we can more readily identify what they might want or find motivating. We have here a very helpful infographic, based on datapoints, that shows the best working traits of each generation (which can give us some clues as to the kinds of motivators we might see more frequently among this generation), as well as what they want from an employer (which gives us even stronger suggestions!). Of course, ultimately the best way to ensure we know what our employees want is to use the Motivational Map to find out their individual wants and needs, and to treat each person as unique. But we recognise that this is not always actionable or practical, especially in larger corporate settings. Therefore, it can be easier to group employees into categories. In this case, by generation. However, we must bear in mind the motivational correlations we’re about to suggest should not be regarded as stereotypes or absolutes, merely as guidelines, indicative of an overall trend. Sometimes these trends can help us to get started on the path of understanding our employees and meeting their needs and wants (thereby incentivising them to stay), and we can fine-tune to a greater and more specific degree later on!

So, without further ado, here is our four-part motivational analysis of the generation gap! Stay tuned over the coming weeks for each new instalment. First up are the Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers: ‘46 – ‘64


Optimism is not a trait that easily correlated with any particular motivator. In fact, from a Motivational Maps standpoint, optimism is actually an indicator of high levels of motivation. One possible implication of this data, therefore, is that the Boomer generation in general are more highly motivated that other generations. And high motivation in turn means high productivity. As controversial as this might be for some, I think many would agree that the Boomer generation have an outstanding work ethic. The very fact many Boomers are still working, given on average they will have gone beyond retirement age, is testament to that fact! But from where does this work ethic derive? We don’t have space here to fully explore the complex environmental, societal, cultural, and contextual factors that may have influenced this, but we can comment upon what it may indicate motivationally speaking. By far the most energetic motivator is the Builder. The Builder is competitive, likes money and material gain, and will work relentlessly to reach that number one spot. Given that Boomers were born shortly after the Great Depression and the deprivation of the Second World War, it is perhaps no wonder that there is a strong desire here to strive for wealth and prosperity. The third trait identified by the infographic is that they enjoy mentoring, or in other words, passing on their knowledge. This is certainly correlated to the Expert motivator, which is all about the acquisition and dissemination of information and knowledge. What’s interesting is that both of these motivators, Expert and Builder, sit in the Achievement cluster, which is work and career focused (again, reminding us of that strong work ethic). Of course, the danger here is not making room for family and social time, and not seeking to develop the self outside of work.


But what do Boomers want in exchange for their high energy, high motivation, and high expertise? For Boomers, it’s about loyalty—they want a long term relationship with an employer. I don’t want to jump the gun too much, but we’ll see that this is in sharp contrast with other generations, such as Gen X and Millennials, who prefer flexibility. The Boomer’s desire for job security correlates with the Defender motivator. Defenders like predictability, they like to know what’s coming down the pipeline so they can prepare for it. So, it’s likely when working with Boomers that they will desire some assurance of long term employment. Coupled with this is an appreciation of hierarchical structures; again, this is in sharp contrast to subsequent generations!

There are several motivators that correlate to hierarchy. Defender is one (Defenders don’t mind being told what to do, so long as the guidance is clear). The Star, who wants recognition, and likes to receive that recognition from the “top dog” (because that makes them a top dog too!). Then there’s The Director, who likes to have control of people and resources. Put a more gentle way, they like to understand the spans and scope of responsibility. What emerges from this is one key word: clarity. Boomers (in general) want to know where they are in the pecking order, what they have to do, and who they have to defer to. By making these things clear, you’ll be potentially making your organisation very attractive to this particular generation of workers.

That about does it for Boomers. In the next article, we’ll be looking at Generation X. As we shall see, their motivational trends look very different. Stay tuned for more information on closing the generation gap!


My 9 favourite motivational books


This is the time of year where resolutions and intentions are being set, goals are being defined, and in general one is looking to get a sense of what the year might hold. For many, this is a time to set personal development goals, which might include training courses but also reading a few well-chosen books! So, for those who still have spaces on their reading list and are looking for motivational suggestions, I have selected my 9 favourite motivational books. These are organised into three sets of three: Management, for the business-minded of you. Personal development, for those looking to go deeper into the Self. And finally Poetry, for those who are a bit creative and like a narrative dimension to their reading. All of these books share two things: deep insight and actionable points (yes, even the poetry—perhaps especially the poetry!). So, if you’re looking to make your 2023 more motivational, look no further!


The Future of Management: Gary Hamel

As a management book, it is so well written; you know? Paragraphs, not bullet points, argument and thought, not simplistic solutions and memes, subtlety, not black and white. Written by an academic but still great to read: “Scholars have repeatedly found that religious faith enhances self-esteem, improves physical health, and enlarges the capacity of individuals to cope with the traumas of life”. Read that again – yep, Hamel reads widely too and so connects all sorts of ideas outside of business and management with … business and management. Marvellous. Consider this: “Without a narrative that creates drama and meaning, we are listless and rudderless. That’s why meaning is a critical design rule for creating adaptable organisations.” In Biblical terms, without vision the people perish! There is nothing new under the sun, but Hamel has a great way of expressing these truths (backed up with lots of evidence that makes it compelling for today). Alongside all this, there are some wonderful case studies in this book too.

Coherence, The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership: Dr Alan Watkins

This book is a wonderful and yet practical read. It knocks on the head the idea that reason or rationality, or data and facts, are going to solve our problems, especially our leadership problems. As he says, “The trouble is, we think we are pulling the strings based on rational, verifiable data – we’re not.” Unless we address the emotional elephant in the room, we are bound, or doomed even, never to get close to solving how leadership and how people work. That said, there is a relentless logic or rationality in his arguments: “And people have emotions, so to ask them to leave their emotions at the door is like asking them to stop their heart beating while they are in the office because the noise is a little distracting.” Precisely! Coherent leadership, then, not only recognises “that the troops are in an emotionally different place from them, which is itself a skill, but will have sufficient emotional flexibility to offer different emotional input depending on where the team is on the roller-coaster of change.” This book provides a great toolkit of ideas and techniques by which you can become yourself a more coherent leader.

Motivational Interviewing: William Miller and Stephen Rollnick.

This is a brilliant book, though it is heavily academic, and not so easy for anyone in business to grasp, much less understand or use. But delving into it is really worthwhile, particularly if we are having to deal on a 1-2-1 basis with individuals who need motivating! The essence of it, is what they call mastering ‘change talk’. Change talk is how to persuade ourselves to think and act difficulty. There are four key issues surrounding it: the disadvantages of the status quo, the advantages of change, creating optimism for change, and enabling an intention to change. They provide 7 insightful questions which enable the conversation to take place that – if done properly (a big proviso) – will facilitate the shift in someone’s thinking. Essentially, it is a methodology for ‘re-framing’ how someone sees and interprets the world and their own place in it, and what is possible for them. A strongly recommended book, then – a modern classic.


The Enneagram: Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

I have probably got and read some 50+ books on the Enneagram, and anyone who knows Motivational Maps will know that the Enneagram was a major influence on their development; indeed, so many ideas that inform Motivational Maps derive from the Enneagram. To mention only two: the three-by-three matrix, and the correspondence between the Relationship-Achievement-Growth and the notion of the Heart-Head-Gut centres of the body. Perhaps my favourite book is Rohr’s one, which also was one of the first I read. It is unashamedly Christian in its perspective, and that won’t suit everyone, especially those wanting a more ‘new age’ feel to their texts. But Rohr’s account is quite brilliant and insightful: loads of nuggets of spiritual and psychological insights pack its pages. Some of you may know my articles on The Enneagram for New York’s The Epoch Times (the first one can be found at: In this I identify the 9 types of personality as characters Odysseus meets on his journey; we all find it easier to understand character when it can be personified. So, for example, in Rohr’s book we find each of the nine numbers typified by Biblical characters. Fascinating.

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really, Grow up: James Hollis

As I am well into the second half of my life, this book is especially resonant and meaningful. Hollis is a Jungian analyst with many profound and penetrating observations to make on the life we lead and how to cope when things aren’t turning out the way we expected. Picking up on Jung’s work, he notes, “Jung disturbingly observed that what we have ignored or denied inwardly will then more likely come to us as outer fate.” In other words, what we have denied in ourselves or become within, is going to meet us in the external world that most consider to be the only ‘real’ world there is. The book challenges us: “And who among us is strong enough, or ethical enough, to say that we are our own problem?” Who, indeed; it is easier to  blame others. Do you think you are in charge of your life?  “We who prize our conscious autonomy are dismayed to learn that there is a shadow government at work within us.” There is just so much in this book that is a revelation. Let me leave you with a quotation that all coaches might want to reflect on: “In fact, it is virtually impossible to do therapy with a person ‘in love’, just as one cannot work with a drunk.” Right!

A Complete Guide to the Soul: Patrick Harpur

Soul is not a popular word these days, except in the sense of ‘soul music’. We much prefer using the word ‘self’ or ‘Self’ to allude to some intangible aspect of who we are, aside from our bodies, when we talk about the mystery being a human being. But the self is not the soul; the soul is a much richer, deeper concept, and Harpur’s book explains it in fascinating detail. I especially love how he draws in ancient myths to illustrate his points. Of course, one reason why soul is an unpopular word is that it is not ‘scientific’; but as Harpur observes, “We know a thing by imaginatively participating in its unique quality rather than by objectively measuring its quantity.” And another reason the secular world dislikes it, is because it has religious connotations. But as Harpur correctly notes: “Even if we are not specifically religious, we can all still resonate with the notion that there is some part of us which should not be sold, betrayed or lost at any cost.” Yes, to lose one’s soul – the worst thing, bar none, that could happen to a human being. Read this book and find out more.


Paradise Lost: John Milton

The most sublime poem in the English language - barring none. And what is sublimity? The ancient Greek Longinus defined it this way: “the Sublime lifts him [the reader or observer] near to the great spirit of the Deity” and “gains a complete mastery over our minds”, so we enter a state of total absorption and for a while – for the duration of the reading or performance – we are lost to ourselves. The great English critic, Dr Johnson, said “his [Milton’s] work is not the greatest of heroic poems, only because it is not the first.” In other words, this poem stands just a notch below Homer. Secondly, “ ...for what other author ever soared so high or sustained his flight so long?” And here we have the essence of sublimity: the soaring so high and for so long; it’s the sustained performance that is so impressive and this of course depends on the elevation of language. For more information on sublimity and Milton, you can check out my Epoch Times article:

The Divine Comedy: Dante Alighieri

What can I say about this work that I haven’t already extensively said in major articles for the St Austin Review and The Epoch Times: ? Suffice to say, this is the greatest poem ever written, and it more or less has everything: narrative pace, incredible characters, astonishing and supernatural wonders, profound psychological depth, and complete linguistic control and expressiveness. It is poetry of the greatest order, and only one work I know of exceeds it – and that work is not ‘technically’ called poetry. But to give one astonishing fact about The Divine Comedy: many years back I attended a lecture in which the lecturer informed us that Dante’s three-part structure exactly mirrored Jung’s three levels: unconscious, aware, and integrated. It was like a pat on the back that Dante was a good Jungian. I raised my hand: “Excuse me, didn’t Dante come first by about 700 years? Isn’t Jung a good Dantean?” Nuff said!

The Gospel of St John: St John, The New Testament

Here for me is ultimately the greatest read of all, and it is pure poetry, though not normally accredited as such; after all, it is ‘scripture’. But scriptures are full of poetry and poems: the Bhagavad Gita is poetry and so are the Psalms; however, John’s gospel is in a different class altogether that would require a book for me to explain fully. At this point, the key thing to get is that to appreciate the poetry acquire a great translation (this applies to Dante as well – as a starting point try Dorothy L. Sayers or J. Simon Harris for the Inferno). The standard New International Version of the Bible is, in my view, a pretty useless translation: it destroys the language rather than enhances it. No, go for the New American Standard Bible, that is awesome throughout. To ‘feel’ the difference, take these two sentences from John Chapter 18 verse 1:

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.   New International Version

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden into which He Himself entered, and His disciples.  New American Standard Bible (Lockman Foundation)

The former is prose, but the latter quotation is poetry. How much more dramatic is “over the ravine” to “crossed the Kidron”. But more important still is: the reflexive pronoun, ‘He Himself’ doubly affirming his determination AND simultaneously alluding to another garden which another Adam was once in; also, note the priority given to Jesus entering, and the verb attaching to him, and then the disciples follow, compared with “he and his disciples entered” which gives them parity. The co-ordinated subjects weaken the force of the sentence, and in my view its theological significance. If you don’t like Christianity, read John’s gospel at least for the poetry!


I hope you find these 9 books as illuminating and motivational as I did. If there are any books you consider to be deeply motivational, please share them in the comments below.

I hope you have an amazing 2023, full of triumphs, joys, love, and good books.



The Future of Management: Gary Hamel

Coherence: Dr Alan Watkins

Motivational Interviewing: William R Miller & Stephen Rollnick

Personal Development

The Enneagram: Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: James Hollis

A Complete Guide to the Soul: Patrick Harpur


Paradise Lost: John Milton

The Divine Comedy: Dante Alighieri

The Gospel of St John: St John