recently celebrated another 50th birthday amongst our circle
of closest friends, now putting all of our crew into the
sixth decade of our lives. Amidst this revelry and in other
gatherings with work colleagues of the ‘same vintage’, discussion
often turns to intergenerational comparisons and sure as
day follows night, a lament for those who have come after
before we explore the challenges and perceived/real failings
of the ‘youngins’, let’s establish the generational labels.
generation was born between 1910 and 1924 and are dubbed
the greatest given their hardship though the Great Depression
of the 1920s and living through World War II. Just behind
them is the Silent or Traditionalist generation born from
1925 to 1945 with tinges of “greatness” as well.
Next up, the
infamous Baby Boom generation born from 1946 to 1964. The
Mad Men of Madison Avenue are a by-product of this generation.
Boomers are also the original ‘me, me, me’ movement yet
they did drive positive social change around the issues
of equality and minority rights that continue to reverberate
today. They also gave us classic modern rock music, enduring
and timeless 1970s bands but on the downside, disco and
at times, really long hair.
Then comes the
generation born between 1965 and 1976 known as Generation-X
or my preferred moniker, the Baby Busters! Many of our generation
(compared to its predecessors) grew up in one-parent homes
or blended families, were cynical at an earlier age and
remain resentful of the national fiscal debts the boomers
left for us. On the upside, the inevitable passing of the
boomers will result in a multi-trillion dollar bequeathment
of wealth, mostly to Gen-X. We also gave the world the best
and worst of 1980s music, too many one-hit wonders and we
were the guinea pigs of transition; imperial to metric and
punch cards to personal computers.
or Generation-Y, were actually born between 1977 and 1995
and are now in their mid-20s to early 40s. They are ‘me,
me, me v2.0’. Too often folks mistakenly refer to today’s
teens as Millennials, they are not! Millennials grew up
with computers, too many TV channels and are often savaged
in workplace literature as being lazy, entitled, self-absorbed
etc. However, this is equally the fault of leaders who have
not individualized their styles to get the best from these
What we do know
about Millennials is that they are now the largest generational
cohort and the most educated in history. But there is sub-text
here: the stereotypical lazy 30-year old gamer still living
in the basement is quasi-real. Millennials who have not
completed their education (high-school or even those with
less market-friendly university degrees) are more likely
to still live at home or perpetually rent and cannot afford
home ownership. As a consequence, this sub-group has not
moved beyond their hometowns compared to others in their
Next up is Generation-Y,
the iGen or Centennials who were born between 1996 and 2012
and are (see paragraph above) too often mislabelled as Millennials.
They are truly the first wired and now wireless generation.
24/7/365, always on, technology invading every facet of
life, digital-and-social first is the only world and context
they know. They have also grown up in a world of amazing
contrasts with wide local and global disparities in personal
safety, income attainment and educational achievement. The
future, through many of their eyes, is very uncertain.
Where we older
folks (read 50-plus) get concerned is in the real/perceived
life skills gap of millennials and centennials.
How many can
write a cheque? Can they make change at a cash register
by doing the math in their head? Do they ever carry cash
and what happens if Interac is not working? How many can
sew a button? What is their state of culinary skills – nuking
a pizza slice, putting milk on cereal or using Skip The
Dishes and UberEats does not count? Can they look their
waiter, Uber driver or store clerk in the eye when speaking?
Do they memorize key phone numbers and personal ID details?
Can they focus on one task or appreciate stillness? And
what happened to spelling and grammar?
Yes, these are
sweeping and maybe unfair questions. The answers, dare I
posit, could be found by flipping these questions back to
the Boomers (their grandparents), us Baby Busters and even
the earliest Millennials. If the first Millennials or many
Centennials can’t cook, sew, do math the old-school way
or fully engage in the real (not virtual) world with eye-contact
and undivided personal attention, who is to shoulder this
blame and what, if anything. can we collectively do to fix
it? Pass the wine, discuss amongst yourselves …