The caveat given right at the top might actually be the main takeaway: People are individuals. Generalizations can be helpful but only to a point. After that, it’s thin ice.
A speaker at a chamber of commerce event the other day talked about generations and, specifically, how best to communicate in a work setting with people. The silent generation follows rules and wants formal communication, and younger people, well, not so much. Good to know.
But I couldn’t help thinking of a few rebuttals and “yeah, buts …” along the way.
One, I think people are underestimating millennials. As the speaker noted, they show a high degree of entrepreneurialism. That’s what makes the world go around. Again, this is generalizing, but I think the lot of them – I raised one – are more realistic about work, money and the work-life balance than my generation has been. A lot of them are fearless – in a good way – but maybe that’s just youth.
And could we let go of the cliches about a generation of kids raised to expect trophies for participation instead of achievement? It seems to me that’s more of reflection of the generation of parents who gave the trophies than of the kids.
Two, the speaker described five generations – silent through post-millennial – currently in the workplace. The silents are the generation of my parents, born 1928 through 1945. They still account for 2 percent of the workforce. They’re conservative, loyal and practical. They’re known to work hard, preferably behind the scenes. They are children of the Great Depression, so they’re frugal. They like things in writing and are a bit formal.
I admire all of that, and I’ve always identified with that generation, the one wedged between “The Greatest Generation” and their boomer children. But when I indulge in that thought, I hear a little voice – one of them – saying, sorry, pal, but not on your best day do you measure up. You boomer slacker.
Three, We the Boomers. I don’t want to get into it with learned demographers who know their stuff, but as a late boomer I’ve always felt that those of us who came along in the early ‘60s grew up in a very different atmosphere than those born in the late ‘40s. Let’s put it this way: If you were too young for Woodstock, too young to face the draft during Vietnam, too young to remember the before and after of the civil rights movement – things that defined the boomers – then that’s a qualitative difference. We late boomers had it relatively easy, though the music did go downhill sharply in the ‘70s. Some might disagree.
Finally, life happens. The Great Recession a decade ago wasn’t the Great Depression of the 1930s, but it reordered things. It caused a whole lot of people to rethink money, work and life and what’s important. Did it hit 25-year-olds differently that 45-year-olds? Sure. But -- let me go full boomer for a second -- everyone’s path is different, man.
I think Princess Leia said that in “Star Wars.” Wait. It’s not “Star Wars” anymore. Well, for some of us it still is. Yes, there’s another generational divide.