SLICING AND DICING THE BOOMER GENERATION and the workplace implications
Here’s an illustration of what we mean when we say the generational cohorts are defined by “formational Influences.” And we need to look beyond “convenient” Census Bureau definitions by birth year.
Humorist P.J. O’Rourke turned to his Boomer generation (he’s an older cohort Boomer born in 1947) for a book, The Baby Boom: How It Got that Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault). In an article for AARP magazine he drew on interviews with Late Boomers and other observations to distinguish between the ends of the Boomer generation. The older half he calls the “loudest” generation. Many of he younger segment are quieter, more conservative, have no memory of Woodstock, and have considerably different formative (political, social, economic and cultural) influences according to Pew Research Center findings. They constitute one-quarter of the Boomer population.
O’Rourke claims to have lived all the stereotypically wild, “let it all hang out” experiences of Boomers and wrote “These youngsters turning 50 are a mystery to me.”
While he took a light-hearted approach, his examination of the subject reinforces the significant point that the typical definition of the Boomers needs to be sliced and diced for a more accurate view of their general attributes (true also of Gen X and Gen Y). And even members of a typically defined generation need the insights gained through cross-generational conversation - within their own generation!
In some ways the late Boomers more resemble the older Gen Xers: more individualistic and transformed from a (likely misinformed) slacker reputation to become very serious. O’Rourke wrote that the late Boomers are “like the quiet youngest child in a big family of older siblings. They grew up in the baby boom universe and take it for granted. They may not know there was ever another cosmos.” The older Boomers were born into the world of what we now consider “inappropriate behavior and wrongheaded social norms (as portrayed in “Mad Men”). And the older Boomers destroyed it utterly,” wrote O’Rourke.
So what does this mid-generation transformation mean for workplace succession planning? What kinds of conversations need to take place between older and younger Boomers?
- Will the Late Boomers and Early Xers feel for urgency to go beyond vocal expression of beliefs and act tenaciously on them?
- Will they make significant strides to change work cultures and policies to sufficiently satisfy Gen Y/Millennilals before the latter succeed in pushing them out of their way?
- Who will initiate meaningful and ongoing cross—generational conversation?
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com