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Stuck Generalizing the Generations

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Over the last 100 years we have seen major socio-cultural changes as different generations have influenced and affected how society works. The following is primarily related to the Western world.

As a result of the differences between generations, we can find ourselves stuck with different expectations and conditioning and sometimes I wonder if they are just generalizations and descriptions not reality.

Our most senior citizens are the  Lost Generation. This group were born prior to 1914.  Gertrude Stein used the term to describe those who fought in World War I.

The next generation is  the Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation. This generation were born between 1901 and 1924 and survived two World Wars and the Great Depression. Those still alive are living in rest homes and with their children.

Then there is the Silent Generation born 1925 to 1945.  Many of these people grew up during the depression and the Second World War and knew loss, suffering and lack.

Then came the freest and most fortunate generation – the Baby Boom Generation. Born following World War II, from 1946 up to 1964. This generation enjoyed full FREE education. They saw the development and advancement of technology and the growth in family numbers led to entirely different socio-cultural expectations and demands.  Boomers thought themselves special and privileged. They worked hard and amassed much. They wanted a better future but they did not always care for themselves well and smoking, drugs and alcohol abuse was matched with promiscuity and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. They rejected the old ways and sought new ways forward until they came to power and suddenly they reverted to old patterns. Many Baby Boomers have experienced 2 major financial crisi that have totally wiped them out.

Generation X  includes those born after the baby boom ended.It generally started sometime mid 1960s through to the about 1982 (depending on the source of your information). This generation have experienced HUGE change – change in education, expectations, work history and technology. They have developed resiliency but also major health problems due to increased stress and related diseases.

Generation Y are often called many different names –  the Millennial Generation (or Millennials), Generation Next, Net Generation, and  Echo Boomers. Commentators vary on the period when this generation actually starts and some think that the earliest were born in the 1970s while most agree that this generation started in the 1980s to the turn of the century. These children have been bombarded with massive information every day and therefore process that information very differently than any other generation. They can be seen as lazy or easily bored but they have experienced instant information and learn knowledge differently because of technology. However their socialization skills and ability to interact with others  is different. Everything is in soundbites. They are consummate flutterbyes ( a term meaning that they flit from one task to another depending on the interest factor).

And the children born in this century are Generation Z, or Generation I, or Internet Generation, and Generation Text.  How they will integrate and work is not yet known but some of the problems seen in school reflect the problems seen with the Baby Boomers born prior to 1955. Bullying, a sense of entitlement and a desire for social justice. What this will mean to the work force and to the future economic conditions is yet to be seen but as children who have experienced an economic correction not seen for over 50 years, they will definitely come into adulthood with very different expectations.

So how do the different generations get us stuck?

Stuck generalizing how a different generation thinks and will react. Stuck judging different generations. Stuck trying to categorize and label people based on their age not their uniqueness.

We need to recognize that people matter not the generation they belong to. When we label people by their generation we can easily get stuck with preconceived ideas and miss understanding and enjoying interaction with the person.

Depending on your experiences this affects how you treat others. But generalizations about any generation will keep us stuck and set up expectations about behavior that may not be true.

What are your thoughts on the different generations and their expectations?


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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Jenny Wilmshurst September 16, 2011, 9:21 am

    How often I have found myself labelled due to my age – the one that knocks on the door of ‘Baby Boomer’ with the wrinkles to prove it!

    Yet both you and I have totally defied the Gen X, Y, Boomer labelling.

    We have each been greenfielders in online marketing and Social Media; early adoption of new ways of being, doing, thinking; , are not tech phobic; display outside the box innovative thinking; we totally challenge reported business norms against a vast experience, and come up with different conclusions therefore. If you didn’t see our photos you’d think we were Gen X or Gen Y!

    What about the capitalisation of such ages; wisdom of a Boomer, and the spirit of a Gen Y thinker? The Boomer & The Babe i.e. our age & business experience contrasted against our youthful business spirit and now our former physical ‘cuteness’!

    Everyone of us of our age can be granted more kudos that the Generation labels indicate. We have a whole lot more to leverage from too! There is a ‘valuable journey of ‘life’ in every wrinkle we earn!

    • Roberta Budvietas September 16, 2011, 11:09 am

      Thanks Jenny. Roy makes a valid comment too on how travel and immigrating can break the generational mold. I think if people do live in different countries they somehow see things differently. The box that we get put in we both know can be incredibly unfair

  • Joe Cheray September 16, 2011, 9:29 am

    Well dare I say it but Gen x is the most overlooked generation. We may have undergone the most changes and pioneered a lot of what gen y and gen z are using in relation to the technology they now enjoy. All these you gen y start ups wouldn’t have the internet as we know it today if it hadn’t been for Gen X. I know the same holds true with every generation feeling the same about the generation before them.

    My experience with Gen y is that they all think that they are entitled because we their Gen x counterparts gave them everything. Again I am trying not to generalize here only relating my experiences with this generation.

    Now I did have the pleasure today of a lovely young woman age 25 doing my hair at the salon. She had good parenting, you could tell by the way she treated the customers she worked on. She was diligent, respectful, polite, thoughtful. We talked at some length about our values and we both feel that we were born in the wrong time in that we both felt like we were older souls. Older souls that value hard work to get what you want and that no one in this world hands you anything.
    Joe Cheray recently posted..Blogging PitfallsMy Profile

    • Roberta Budvietas September 16, 2011, 11:10 am

      And therein lies one of my statements – let’s not box people Joe. I know some people in my “generation” that annoy me more than Gen Y or X or Z. There are always exceptions and we need to see people as people

  • Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA September 16, 2011, 9:31 am

    Roberta,I am not sure this gets us stuck. Just like Margaret Mead studied civilizations and discerned clear, unadorned patterns among the various groups,these classifications work very well- at least, for Americans.
    I think the breakdown occurs when one includes in a various generation those folks who did not have their formative years as part of that generation (a Baby Boomer who immigrated here after 1970, a Millenial whose parents are not citizens and moved here in the past decade or so).

    • Roberta Budvietas September 16, 2011, 11:12 am

      You should have been in the room I was the other night. The way some business owners were talking about finding their niche they completely only saw things by generation. And yes I do think moving countries does change people. People is people no matter how small to quote a famous elephant (Horton)

  • Hajra September 17, 2011, 10:27 am

    Hey Roberta.

    Loved the enlightenment about the generations. For me, what gets us stuck in respect to this; more than coming from a particular generation, it is what the difference occurs between two generations – what we refer to as the generation gap. It might be harmful, but the tolerance and understanding of the values and views held by different generations need to be understood and worked on if working in close interactions.
    Hajra recently posted..Satisfying the Blogging SoulMy Profile

    • Roberta Budvietas September 18, 2011, 8:20 am

      I so agree Hajra but not just as generational differences but as people differences and cultural differences too

  • Justin | Mazzastick September 19, 2011, 10:29 am

    Hi Roberta,
    This is a very interesting post and really made me reflect on what you wrote in your post. I am the type of person who befriends people of any age and I can see the characteristics that you wrote in your post match up with the way that they live their life.
    Justin | Mazzastick recently posted..How to Meditate for BeginnersMy Profile

    • Roberta Budvietas September 19, 2011, 12:37 pm

      Careful though Justin because every generation has its exceptions. People are people but when doing a market analysis this can help an owner look at the prospects with different eyes

  • Yvonne A Jones September 19, 2011, 12:51 pm

    I’ve read your post, Roberta, and the comments. While I understand that various generations have be labeled in the United States and other large countries, there are some many developing countries where these labels are unknown.

    Growing up and working in a so-called Third World country and moving to an industrialized country I’ve found that labels tend to box people in, make them stuck, if you will, with certain generalizations and expectations. When these are unknown, people just learn to interact and work at acknowledgement for who you are and acceptance rather than stereotyping and the expectations that go with that.
    Yvonne A Jones recently posted..Twitter for Customer Service – How Can Small Businesses Benefit?My Profile

  • Samantha Bangayan September 20, 2011, 2:18 pm

    What a great overview, Roberta! I had never fully understand how each generation was stereotyped. I’m a Generation-Y baby and I definitely see what you describe about myself and people in my generation with the consequences of information overload. In fact, it’s a characteristic that I try to avoid. I don’t want to be a multi-tasker or an endlessly unsatisfied stimulation-seeker on the hedonic treadmill. It’s partly why I moved to Peru and I imagine that many people in my generation who have traveled or who have made spirituality a priority don’t fit into the classic description of Generation Y or are adjusting out of the description. I love how you say that we shouldn’t get stuck in these stereotypes because there’s so much to value in every single unique human being if we’re open to who they really are! =)
    Samantha Bangayan recently posted..A Versatile Blogger in PeruMy Profile

    • Roberta Budvietas September 21, 2011, 12:17 pm

      Thanks Samantha. You are unique and that is what we have to keep in mind when we look at business opportuities

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