Gen Z and Boomers Similar at Work, If Nowhere Else

New Research From Reflektive Reveals Gen Z Is More Conservative and Better at Maintaining Professional Boundaries at Work Than Millennials and Gen X


SAN FRANCISCO— March 18, 2020— “OK Boomer” may be the battle cry of the younger generations, but it seems Gen Z may have more in common with their elders than they think. 

A new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees from Reflektive, the leading performance management platform, suggests that Gen Z’s attitudes about what is and isn’t appropriate at work—in terms of physical contact, flirtation and fraternization—are more closely aligned with the attitudes of Boomers than Millennials or Gen X.

“There’s a temptation to just lump Gen Z and Millennials together, but it’s clear that while they share some priorities, they don’t share others,” said Reflektive CEO Greg Brown. “Our research suggests that while Millennials and Gen X enjoy a more casual work environment, Gen Z may be influential in returning a greater sense of professionalism to work. This is a perfect example of diversity in the workplace and why employers are well-served to invest in performance management solutions that support the way people really work, no matter the generation.”

Gen Z and Boomers Less ‘Touchy-Feely’

As for physical contact with colleagues of the opposite sex, Gen Z is on board with handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. But beyond that, Gen Z and Boomers are much more conservative than the generations that separate them, and there is a sharp divergence with what contact they find acceptable relative to Millennials and Gen X.

In fact, a startling 7% of Gen X say they slap colleagues on the butt at work:

What kind of physical contact do you have with colleagues of the opposite gender at work?
Gen ZMillennialsGen XBoomers
Shoulder massage3%6%6%4%
Kiss on the cheek2%8%10%3%
Slap on the butt2%5%7%1%

Gen Z Isn’t Big on Fraternization and Flirtation

Gen Z and Boomers also seem to share a greater sense of propriety at work generally. 

For example, Gen Z (75%) and Boomers (80%) are significantly more likely than Millennials (48%) and Gen X (56%) to say sitting on a colleague’s lap during work hours reflects poorly on a person’s professional reputation.

And while 45% each of Millennials and Gen X admit to sometimes flirting at work, 81% of Boomers and 71% of Gen Z say they never do.

Gen Z also seems to maintain better boundaries between their work and personal lives. Even though Gen Z has grown up with social media, they are significantly less likely to follow their managers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, or TikTok than Millennials or Gen X. In fact, 44% don’t follow their managers on any social media platforms, compared to just 30% of Millennials and 39% of Gen X.

 “Gen Z is going to keep surprising us. It’s up to employers to make sure their employees of every generation have the environment they need to engage and thrive,” added Brown.


About Reflektive

Reflektive is the leading performance management platform that accelerates business growth through continuous improvement. With Reflektive, organizations can scale constructive, ongoing conversations that increase employee engagement and productivity by 2X. Forward-thinking companies such as Allbirds, Privia Health and Comcast depend on Reflektive to build the high-performing teams that drive their growth. Backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners and TPG Growth, Reflektive has raised more than $100 million to date and was ranked 13th Fastest Growing Company in North America on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™. For more information, please visit



Stacey Grimsrud