A New Study Finds What Drives Generational Happiness in the Workplace

Without thinking, you’ve probably generalized about each generation’s attitudes towards work – or at least know some typical stereotypes. For example, baby boomers believe you must work hard to get ahead, while Millennials aren’t hard workers. And while we at Cangrade don’t believe in holding biases, each generation has fundamental differences.

Each generation has had to mature under different circumstances, which can instill different attitudes. These generational differences are well documented, but this doesn’t mean those differences are always addressed. Especially in the workplace. So, what happens when a mix of generations are working together at the same organization?

According to SHRM, work values are the source of most generational differences and the root of workplace conflict. This is why employers must understand what drives each generation’s happiness and how to increase it to support job satisfaction and engagement.

Our Study

We conducted a study to uncover how happy each generation is at work and what drives each generation’s workplace happiness to help HR practitioners improve employee happiness and engagement at work. In our final report, you can find data on the levels of generational happiness at work, what drives that happiness, and what you can do to foster it.

Armed with this information, you can:

  • Increase job satisfaction among your employees and drive employee engagement.
  • Drive retention by providing tactics to maximize employee happiness.
  • Promote your teams’ strengths and fortify their weaknesses by addressing and understanding what each employee needs to succeed.
  • Effectively motivate your team members by arming your management team with data on what drives each generation.
  • Foster a positive workplace culture that adapts to each employee’s needs.

Our Methodology

We surveyed 608 individuals and asked them, “In general, how happy you are at work?” to gauge the attitudes of people from the four generations still widely represented in the workplace. The generations we surveyed include:

  • Baby Boomers
  • Gen X
  • Millennials
  • Gen Z

Our survey gauged how workplace attitudes varied by generation and what their priorities and main workplace happiness drivers were. We then analyzed this data in two parts:

1) By asking about general workplace happiness

2) By assessing what’s important to employees

Our Findings on Happiness at Work by Generation

The full report reveals how happy each generation is at work and what drives that happiness. Here are a few of the high-level data points we discovered.

Baby Boomers

  • 40% of Baby Boomers highly disagree with the statement: “My work is unimportant to my identity.”
  • Baby Boomers’ workplace happiness correlates with the statement, “I get direct answers to my questions at work.”

Generation X

  • 91% of Gen X agreed with “My manager trusts me,” making them the most trusted generation at work.
  • 76% reported that they are happy at work.


  • The statement “I am proud of the work I do” most correlates to Gen X and Millennials’ happiness at work.
  • 42% of Millennials highly agree, “I am proud of my work.”

Generation Z

  • Gen Z’s workplace happiness is most highly correlated with the statement, “My work environment brings out the best in me.”
  • 26% of Gen Z is unhappy at work, the highest of any generation.

Managing Gen Z’s Workplace Happiness

Since learning that Gen Z is the most unhappy generation at work, how can we make work more satisfying for Gen Z?

Research shows that Gen Z prioritizes learning and professional development opportunities in their jobs. So, providing Gen Z employees with the opportunity to grow, upskill and see a future at your organization is critical for retaining them.

Tactics for Increasing Generational Happiness at Work

Knowing and understanding what drives your employee’s happiness is the first step to increasing job satisfaction. But our research didn’t stop there. We also identified tactics for how to manage each generation at work best. Here are a few of the insights you’ll see in our report:

  • Baby Boomers most highly value having their voices heard in the workplace.
  • Gen X thrives on trust.
  • Millennials must feel proud of their work.
  • Gen Z needs a workplace that nurtures their development.

For a complete look at the data and insights, we uncovered on generational happiness at work and how to drive it, download or contact us at [email protected].




Katherine Chia, Ph.D.
Cangrade| + posts

Dr. Katherine Chia is a Cognitive Scientist, Data Scientist, and a Responsible AI Advocate with Cangrade. Her work exists at the intersection between cognitive science and artificial intelligence. Research methodology expert, data science fanatic, and advocate for responsible AI. At Cangrade, she builds predictive models using machine learning tools to estimate candidate success in roles, refines organization-wide psychometric and analytical approaches, and provides data science expertise to deliver clients clear, customized, and actionable value. Additionally, Dr. Chia designs and executes internal and external research projects.

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