One area of study that has long fascinated me is the area regarding the various generations of people that we have, specifically in America. Over the last eight years or so that has shifted to how those generations function together within the workplace.
I know that people have differing views on names for the generations, if there even should be those distinctions, when the dates of the generations actually fall, etc. I appreciate the separate “generations” in much the same way that I appreciate personality assessments, as a helpful guideline but not a set-in-stone situation. I fall in line with the five categorizations as follows; The Silent Generation (1900-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X’ers (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-2000), and Generation Z (born after 2000). I would like to break up each of these generations into separate posts and then delve into how all five are imperative to strengthening how we work, and how that then leads to strengthening our communities.
Please note that I am using a lot of generalizations and what at times may seem like stereotypes. I do think that those have their place, but I am also aware that human beings are infinitely unique and capable of profound change. For the sake of better understanding I may group people more than some would like, even my own self.
The Silent Generation, at present, only accounts for 3% of the global workforce. This is the generation born between the years 1900-1945. More often than not, this generation values loyalty and duty. They are the ones that you typically hear of staying with a single company for their entire career. My grandfather was one such man, born in 1929 he started working at Transco as a young man and stayed there until his retirement 33 years later. Bob Vollmer is also another, he will retire February 6th of 2020 after working for the State of Indiana for 58 years. This generation is the one that grew up at the tail-end of The Great Depression and weathered World War II. These momentous events created in them a desire to maintain what they had fought for, as well as a desire to provide their children and grandchildren with what they had gone without. The Silent Generation, collectively, seems to have an air of determination and strength that comes with the background of their upbringing, and I also assume the wisdom of age. “Many may struggle with technology, but they are the most engaged generation and want opportunities to develop and learn. They like teamwork. They also expect their experience to be respected. (Mary Bennett) The struggle with technology, in my opinion, is one of over generalization. My grandmother, had an iPhone and used Facebook very regularly to communicate. And when she taught herself how to use emoticons-the world was hers. It seems that it depends upon the individual person more than even their age (which rings true for every generation and every age). I often have to remind myself that I have had access to a computer since I was very young and my grandmother had a car phone when I was a little girl, so learning technology for me may not be as hard as it is for someone who was an older adult before certain technologies became part of our daily lives.
There are several thoughts as to why they are known as The Silent Generation. The most common is that growing up with economic strife and war ever present, they simply kept their heads down in silence and worked very hard to overcome. (Perry)
I have had the privilege of working with several people from this generation, very specifically my first boss. He showed a tremendous amount of patience to a young teenager that had never worked in an office before. He taught me how to use keyboard shortcuts to minimize the time I would need my mouse, which in turn increased efficiency. He was very fastidious in the work and how it was done, yet he always allowed me to work as I worked best. I have a great deal of admiration for him and I am grateful for how he impacts my life still, almost 20 years later.
My aim is not of division or of a misguided belief that one generation is superior to another; my hope, is that we can appreciate and respect each generation for what they have to offer and how those numerous offerings when combined together will enable great change that will benefit our society and those to follow.
Next week, we will take a look at the Baby Boomers which, until 2019 were the largest generation on record. Their name seems self explanatory but we will dive into what predicated the baby boom, their lives growing up as “flower children,” and how they have vastly changed the face of work and politics in America.