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Bill Keller, now an OpEd columnist for The New York Times, started with his column on the entitlement behavior of Boomers what led to a dialogue of letters over a few weeks span between Keller, Leonard Steinhorn, author of the book “The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy,” and then a slew of letters from readers at the invitation of the Times Opinion section editor.

My letter was not among the handful chosen for publication, and I am sharing it here. I chose not to strongly defend or criticize the Boomer generation but rather to make the point that the generations need dialogue to understand and appreciate each other better rather than whine and point fingers.

Most of Professor Steinhorn’s letter rings true to me. However I disagree about which generation gets tarred with the “entitled” label, which I think should be barred from our vocabulary in this context. In recent years, the GenY/Millennials have been frequently accused of a strong sense of entitlement. When the Gen Xers entered the workforce, they also were labeled with an entitled attitude. Then they became hard workers, like the Boomers did, and foist the entitled epithet on the Gen Ys. And as noted in both Bill Keller’s article and Steinhorn’s letter, the Boomers get it too.  It becomes meaningless, and the stereotypers should be more specific in their criticisms.

The younger generations don’t have the perspective to appreciate the positive changes the Boomers accomplished (laid out in Steinhorn’s letter) and what our society and business world was like before. We have to teach that better so they understand and are aware of what they could stand to lose.

 We need cross-generational conversation in the spirit I have been facilitating through social media (e.g., the Cross-Generational Conversation group on Linkedin) and in-person forums. The talk is notable for its civility and mutual learning and appreciation across the generations. We have more important things to do in our lives and the world than fueling phony wars among the generations.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot

New York, NY   August 15, 2012

Let’s continue the discussion. Please share your comments.



Are Age and Wisdom Connected?

I received a very interesting article from The Economist sent by my friend Iris Wolinsky, a mediator and arbitrator. I love it and always say we need to challenge our assumptions about age - and all aspects of diversity and behavior.

Here is link to article. Age and wisdom  Older and wiser?

Americans get wiser with age. Japanese are wise from the start

What are your thoughts?   




A study by Brad J. Bushman, Scott J. Moeller and Jennifer Crocker, ”Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem?” to be published in the Journal of Personality concluded according to the Wall Street Journal weekend Ideas column that “college students would rather have their self-esteem stroked that eat their favorite food, have sex or drink beer.” The sub-title of the article is “Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards.”

To gauge the addictive qualities of each pleasure a ratio of “wanting” to “liking” was used. College students said they liked ego stroking, sex and beer more than they wanted them, but the gap between wanting and liking was narrowest for self-esteem.

This is an interesting finding, and maybe not so surprising since the Gen Y/Millennial generation has had more attention focused on them from parents, teachers, coaches and others than any other in history and many of their parents followed psychologists” advice preaching boosting self-esteem. 

The findings of this study raise in my mind a few questions:

  • What about other generations? Is this a phenomenon of Gen Y?
  • Would a similar conclusion apply to Baby Boomers, for example?
  • Does that help to explain why Boomers want to hold their ground in the workplace even when money for retirement is not an issue for them?

Please share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot



If the economy was booming, Baby Boomers would be sought after in a tight labor market for their knowledge, judgment, wisdom, connections and relatively stability in their work records. Employers would want them around to transfer their knowledge, deal with long time clients they have a relationship with, and mentor and coach younger workers.


In the current economy where supply is far greater than demand, Gen Xers and Gen Yers/Millennials often feel the Boomers who want to stay in the workforce are blocking their opportunities, and the tensions are often palpable as the younger generations have to adjust their expectations. Boomers who believe they have built organizations and contributed so much over the years may feel unloved and unwanted in a culture that favors youth.


Yet age has its advantages, Here is an article that spells those out and describes why age is an asset in five desirable careers.


Though having older workers report to younger managers can be challenging – in fact it is one of the inter-generational challenges I often discuss in my speaking engagements – the article points out that it can actually result in happy and productive outcomes. In the article, Jean Erickson Walker, Ed.D, author of The Age Advantage: Making the Most of Your Midlife Career Transition says that the relationship between someone with experience and someone who is ready to experiment and take risks can be outstanding. "Once they get over the initial adjustment, they often develop a relationship based solidly on mutual respect and each learns from the other," she says. "The key is a leadership philosophy based on collaboration rather than top-down authority."


The optimist in me hopes we will be seeing a lot more of that.


Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


I want to share an excellent article with you. It is a well done exploration of the state of professional (especially law) firm thinking and progress on how to deal with transitioning of senior partners and providing a space for younger partners to grow and move up. The article appears with the title “Gray Matters” in the December issue of The American Lawyer magazine. The same article with the title “Law Firms Face Gray Area as Boomers Age“ appeared online on law.com. Here is the link.

My only quibble with it is that from my experience and observations, the article is too optimistic about how flexible firms have become to this date about flexible schedules and other arrangements for seasoned partners. They do seem to be reversing the trend of establishing and enforcing mandatory retirement policies, but it is still uncommon for the senior people to be able to cut back their time commitment, even with a corresponding cut in compensation, and retain their positions, except in "lockstep" firms.

Richard McDermott and I were very pleased to be interviewed and quoted in the article about our firsthand experience and our work. Check it out, and give us your thoughts and comments.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


How the differences among the generations are playing out in the workplace, especially as the younger generations assume more authority in firms, is making age diversity the hot new employment and diversity issue in the workplace  It's not really so new, but rather is being newly recognized as a diversity issue. Partner transitioning is just one of the age diversity challenges. Here's an article that describes the many facets of the divides and some approaches to bridging them.

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