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Bridging the Gap – or Blowing it Up

After receiving a certain e-mail at work, I decided that I’m tired of all the different generations bashing each other, again, and again, and again….


There doesn’t seem to be any generation that doesn’t feel it has the right/obligation to point out to another generational group that “Yer doin’ it wrong”.  For some reason, the only generation that’s doing it “right” is the one that’s doing the complaining at the moment.

But – they’re all complaining.

Everyone is busily pointing fingers at the others, searching for a place to lay the blame for the state of the planet, the climate of society, and the misunderstandings that fall in that thing known as the “Generation Gap”.

Enough already.

Each and every generation has its drawbacks, mistakes and faults. 

Just as each and every generation has its good qualities, achievements and talents.

Taken from various studies I looked up, here’s what I found:

Traditionalists (1927-1945)– Also known as the Silent Generation, these folks are now in their 60s, 70s and 80s.  Almost all have retired from the workforce (approximately 95%), and those that do remain in the workplace, are near retirement age, and work reduced hours.  They are hardworking, because they were raised during the country’s Depression Era, and consider work a privilege.  They are loyal and submissive, being raised to respect authority and to act as a team.  But – they are “tech challenged” which leads them to balk at changing their work habits.  They prefer the “old school” method – i.e. getting in there and getting your hands dirty and breaking your back – over using technology (which they generally don’t trust) to make sure the job gets done. 

I see this generation as the “Work hard, earn your way, and leave something behind for those to come” generation.  They scrimped and saved every penny, which didn’t leave much available for “fun”, but they knew – to the cent – the value of everything.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964) – Boomers are mostly all in their 40’s and 50’s now.  They are well-established in their careers and hold positions of power and authority.  Boomers are typically “Work-centric”.  They are extremely hardworking and motivated by position, perks & prestige.  They will work long hours and see their accomplishments in terms of their professional achievements.  Since they have devoted so much time to the workplace, they see the generations that follow after them (Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers) as being lacking in work ethic and commitment.  Baby Boomers are confident, independent and self-reliant.  They were raised in an era that believed in reform and revolution, allowing them the ideal that they can change the world – if they work hard enough.  They are not afraid of confrontation and will not hesitate to challenge established practices.  They are also very goal-oriented, welcoming challenge and competition – but are so competitive that they may end up “burning the candle at both ends”.  Boomers can tend to have problems adjusting to workplace flexibility trends, as they believe strongly in hierarchical structure and the “rank system”.  Basically – “If it ain’t broke, don’t change it – ever”… which does not lend itself well to adapting to today’s fast-paced technological world.

My view is that this generation is very focused on the more “material gain” aspect of life.  Raised by parents who had very little, they wanted to accumulate more wealth and security by working hard.  This left a smaller portion of time for home life, but gained them a more secure place, and less worry about the bottom “dropping out” from underneath them as it did during the Depression Era of their parents.

Generation X (1965-1980) –   Gen X’ers are largely in their 30s and early 40s.  They are, on the whole, more ethnically diverse and better educated than previous generations.  Over 60% of Gen X’ers attended college.  They hold middle-management and support-staff positions in the workplace, and are very technologically adept.  Generation X came of age in an era of 2-income families, with rising divorce rates and a faltering economy.  This was the beginning of the age of “latch-key” children, which makes them independent, resourceful and self-sufficient.  They also have a tendency to be more accepting of “alternative lifestyles”, a more “live and let live” approach, rather than the more rigid traditionalist views of conformity to society held by previous generations.  Generation X values freedom and responsibility, with many in this generation displaying a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours, they’d rather not be micro-managed and would prefer to work in a “hands-off” management style.  This generation has grown up with the technological advances skyrocketing and changing daily, so have become very adaptable themselves, willing to learn new technologies and comfortable using all the “bells and whistles” associated with the new gadgets that pop up every day.  Unlike the previous generations, Gen X’ers would rather “work to live” than “live to work”.  They appreciate a more relaxed atmosphere in the workplace, and often incorporate humor and games into work activities.  They are very ambitious, and eager to learn new skills, but – want to accomplish things on their own terms.

I belong to Gen X.  I refrain from comment, except to say that yes – we are very independent, and I myself have a LOT of trouble asking for, or accepting help from others.  I take the “I do it myself” approach, most of the time.  And yes, humor plays a big part of my life.

Generation Y (mid-1980’s and later) – Generation Y is the generation of the 20-somethings, just entering the workforce.  They are also known as the “Millenials”, and is the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce.  Gen Y’ers are very tech savvy.  Plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they prefer to get their information and communications through emails and texts, rather than face-to-face.  This also tends to cause them to expect instantaneous results to their actions, due to the speed of the internet-based society of today.  Gen Y’ers have lost much of their taste for the “fast-track” of the workplace, preferring to trade high pay for a more flexible and balanced work/home life.  Older generations tend to view this as narcissistic or lacking commitment, while Gen Y’ers simply see it as setting their priorities differently – a more “You can’t take it with you – so have fun now” approach to life.  Nurtured and pampered by parents who did not want to make the same “mistakes” as previous generations, Gen Y’ers were raised to be  confident, ambitious and achievement-oriented.  They have high expectations of their employers and are not afraid to question authority.  They want meaningful work, with a solid learning curve.  This generation participated in many group activities growing up, and was part of the “No child left behind” era.  This causes them to focus more on being a part of the team, being included, and also causes them to crave attention – seeking feedback and guidance from those they respect.

Gen Y is the generation of my children.  I see them growing up in a world that is spinning so fast with technological advances, I worry that this “fast track” will swallow them up and spit them out later.  I hope that the values that I’ve taught them will help them to overcome any obstacles, and appreciate the advantages that they have over other generations.  I also know that they will face a myriad of problems, some stemming from past generations not knowing enough to prevent problems – and some stemming from the actions of today.  My kids are strong, smart and have humor bred into them from birth.  I just hope this will help see them through whatever they’ll face – when they cross that bridge that spans the Generation Gap…

And I hope that bridge gets built soon, before the generations start lobbing more than rocks of disdain at one another.  As one person put it…

*Stop blaming the other generations.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago that you were one of “Those stupid kids these days“*


6 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap – or Blowing it Up

    • Absolutely true, just as each person is an individual, so each generation has its good points and its flaws. I just wish more people could “Celebrate the Differences” rather than trying to smash the others for quite simply being different. There’s a reason each generation changes – parents want their children’s lives to be better than what they had to deal with… So why is it so hard to accept when they turn out differently than the generation that came before?

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  2. This is pretty interesting. I’m technically a boomer (’63) but identify and act more like an Xer. Darling Daughter is Gen Y but has many traits of an Xer. I actually get a kick out of most of the “kids” I am in contact with and relate to them pretty well. There is a subset though that drives me nuts … I’ve seen a number of them at work that show complete disdain for their “elders”, refusing to accept that anyone older than 30 could possibly know anything of value. That’s a bit disturbing but fortunately they aren’t as prevalent as those that are eager to learn, at least where I work.

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