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What Defines A Generation?

Updated: Sep 28, 2019


This is the first time we are seeing five generations in the workplace which is causing generational dysfunction. Everyone is blaming the other generation for the issue.

Sound like your office - keep reading!


When people find out that I am a subject expert on generations, the first thing they ask is, “I was born in 1984, what generation am I?”


While we do use general years as the “guardrails” to identify generations, it is a lot more complicated than that. Generations are defined by looking at numerous things. Here are some examples:


Collective perspective: There are general trends that change and influence how #generations think. The Traditionalist (WW II) generation had a strong sense of nationalism and felt an obligation to help the world overcome tyranny. #BabyBoomers developed a “free spirit” and wanted to change the status quo.

“#Millennials reacted to the catering and sheltering provided to them by their Baby Boomer parents and adopted an entitlement attitude.”

First hand memory of significant historical events: The best example here is 9/11/01. Millennials, although still young, have a first-hand recollection of the events of that day. The younger #GenerationZ people while still toddlers don’t have personal memory of what happened. Everything they know about it comes from what others have told them.


Popular social and familial trends: Prior to the Baby Boomer #generation, parenting and child rearing was a standard process. Parents were dominant and children were submissive. In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock published his now famous book “Baby and Child Care”. The perspective changed from “standard authoritative” to “individualism and children’s feelings”. The rest is history.


Technological advances: To #Traditionalist and older Baby Boomers, new advances in technology were things like color television, home stereos, and microwave ovens.

I can still picture a Boomer in socks, sandals, walking shorts and a floppy hat walking the beach with a metal detector. That was new technology for their generation.”

#GenerationX’ers were on top of the latest technology using microfiche and early computers (who remembers garbage in…garbage out?). Millennials got the first real functioning internet and Google. #GenerationZ people like video, wearable technology and use #

YouTube as their “go to” platform for learning.


Although these are guidelines for looking at generations, we need to remember that they are generalizations. We tend to look at generations through stereotypical lenses. Many people in every generation have significantly different viewpoints and behaviors from those we generally associate with that generation. Parental and other influences are still the major factor in how people become positive influencers in our #society. There is still hope for the #future.


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