Welcome. This is the first of a multi-part segment on resentment in the workplace. The series will be dealing with various issues from the perspectives of the different generations currently within the workforce today.
This is an unprecedented time in business history as there are four different generations currently active within the workforce. The current mix comprises the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, and now the first members of Generation Z have just begun working as well.
This convergence of generations brings with it an incredibly broad range of perspectives and opportunities, but also several problems when the different thought processes of these various groups begin to come into contact/conflict. This is particularly true when it comes to the topic of resentment in the workplace.
In this series, we will be examining some of the different traits and perspectives of each generation in the workforce today. As well as some techniques/perspectives that professionals can utilize to move past the barriers and friction between these opposing groups to create a more dynamic & positive work environment.
The Baby Boomers – A Living Legacy (1946-1964)
Strong, unyielding, determined to build the country – these are just some of the positive impacts that the baby boomer generation had on the USA, and by extension, the world.
However, while there are many great legacies from the baby boomer generation, there are some darker aspects that are prevalent as well . These problematic perspectives are now coming into serious conflict with the attitudes of the younger generations in the workplace, which means professionals from this era must begin to reflect honestly on themselves in order to arrive at a resolution.
Let’s take a look at some of those issues now:
Sacrificing the Self
One of the problems that stands out significantly is that the majority of the individuals from the boomer generation defined their existence by their jobs in most cases, forgoing just about everything else in life – family, friends, personal pursuits, etc.
This stemmed from the belief in the illusion that they had to sacrifice their personal joy in life and work in jobs at corporate entities (that they did not necessarily always like). Additionally, they had to work a high number of hours weekly in order to make a living and prove to the world (and themselves) that they were successful. This belief was supplemented in many cases by the fact that they had also bought into the illusion that the company would provide a pension and they would be taken care of by said company in retirement (This of course has now ended very badly for many retirees).
This tunnel vision focus on work also created a secondary problem, which rose when it came time for many of the earlier born boomers to retire from their careers. This is the fact that many of those individuals had an identity crisis and lost their entire sense of self when they had to leave the jobs that they had held for some many years.
All of this should serve as a wakeup call to all the members of this generation still in the workforce today, which brings us to the next section.
Conflicting Attitudes in the Workforce Today
As stated previously, boomers defined themselves by their jobs in many cases. However, the Millennials and Generation Z, (and some members of Generation X) refuse to do that, seeing it for the trap that it is. As a result, individuals from the younger generations are demanding more fulfilling work and greater flexibility. Thus this has become one of the most significant points of contention between Boomers, Generation X, and in particular the Millennials.
Well Boomers, it is time for some tough love, and the hard truth is that your belief in working excessively while sacrificing the other aspects of your lives was a terrible mistake that your generation made. As the old saying goes, no one ever went to their grave believing that they should have spent more time at work. As a result of this realization, many professionals from the boomer generation are angry at themselves over this mistake, and are simply projecting it onto others as a form of denial and retribution.
So boomers, you must realize that engaging in this type of behavior is nothing more than an exercise in ego. You should not be angry with the later generations simply because they recognized the problem, want something better, and have a perspective regarding work that quite frankly is better than the one your generation possessed in this case.
That said, many boomers (particularly those born near the end of the generational cycle) will still be in the workforce for at least 10-15 more years. So the question becomes – How can boomers make the most of their remaining time in the workforce, and leave the workforce a better place than they found it?
Well, here are several points that can be used to improve the current situation:
Perspective for Boomers
1. Life does not end just because you reach a certain age, (or number of years on a job).
Just because you have been working in your chosen field(s) for a long time doesn’t mean that you are “past it”, so don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, it’s true – You can still show the new kids on the block how it’s done, and leave them in awe of your prowess at the same time.
How? Well one of the hallmarks of the younger generations is that they believe in the illusion that they know much more than their predecessors because they feel that their advanced technology gives them an edge. However, Boomers know that there are many things which can only be learned through first-hand experience, and relying too much on technology becomes a dangerous crutch, particularly when the technology fails.
Boomers also know that having a guide is always beneficial, but members of younger generations may not have experienced this lesson yet. So instead of keeping your knowledge and experience to yourself, share it where possible. However, you will find that there will be times where the advice is welcomed, and other times where the people you are trying to assist will let their egos run amok and ignore you completely.
So, ultimately if someone doesn’t want to heed your good advice, and/or thinks they know more – then simply let them crash and burn. You can take heart in remembering that people learn more from failure than they do from success, so if they choose to learn that way, then don’t stand in the way of the lesson (as long as the consequences won’t impact you negatively).
Afterward, when that person is shaking their head, wondering what happened, boomers should use the opportunity to share the benefits of their wisdom again. However this time around you will probably find that the audience is much more willing to listen, particularly if the person involved now needs help with damage control after crashing & burning.
2. Find your Joy
Look for the things outside of a job/career that you enjoy. Try something that you’ve always wanted to do, like learning a musical instrument, volunteering as a mentor, helping in the community, etc. Activities of this nature are much more fulfilling that slaving away extra hours at a job while life passes by.
3. Stop Spending so much Time at Work
This is something that almost every boomer could learn from the younger generations. Your job and the company you work for does NOT care about you. They never did. They would just as soon replace you with someone that they could pay less, and as soon as that opportunity comes along, they will do it in a heartbeat.
4. Embrace Technology Sensibly
No matter what, technology will continue to march on, so it is best to approach it with a positive attitude. However, there is an important caveat here – Just because something is new, doesn’t mean that it’s better. Nowhere is this more true than when dealing with both existing and emerging technology.
So, keep your mind open to learning and using new technology, and make sure you aren’t held back by fear. Ask questions, and remember that you are not alone as many other individuals are learning it for the first time as well. Then once you’ve learned the details, if there is a legitimate issue, you can speak with confidence, which will gain you more respect from your peers, and boost your esteem.
5. Stay Fresh
Even though you have been around and have a wealth of experience, that does not mean that all your perspectives are the best. Things grow and evolve over time, and people are no exception. So stay open to new thoughts and experiences, and that positive approach will continue to expand your horizons in wonderful ways.
Stay tuned for Part II on Generation X!
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