Lazy Z-gen, entitled and self-centered Millenials, slow X-gen and conservative Boomers. Generational stereotypes are alive and kicking. We check how much truth they hold.
The Z-gen are a lazy generation that squanders money on ostentatious consumerism. Millenials frequently jobs like gloves and communicating with shortcuts. In addition, they shamelessly eat avocados – including in the form of toast – instead of saving up for their own apartment. And in general, young people are claimants, they think they are entitled to everything. X-gen are slow and can’t handle criticism. Boomers are conservative and don’t understand the changing world. And it’s not just Boomers that fall into the bag of grandparents, but also X-gen, because from the perspective of 20-year-olds, they are already a dying generation of dinosaurs.
How much will the meme bear?
A stereotype is a simplified and value-tainted picture of reality functioning in the public consciousness. Not wonder that emotionally-charged information, whose strength is ease of cognition and sometimes meme-like, gains the upper hand over a more nuanced description of reality.
By reducing the image of a generation to a commentary involving an OK Boomer meme, for example, it is easy to cause an avalanche of laughter, but also to add a pebble to another avalanche – misinformation. By calling the youngest snowflake generation, some want to appreciate the sensitivity of the Z-gen. Others ironically point out that they can’t cope with the challenges of the real world, because they live exclusively in the digital one. Even operating office devices is a challenge for them because, they are less intuitive than apps.
It only takes five seconds to learn how to use the Tik Tok. You don’t need a user guide like you do with a printer.
– that’s how Britain’s The Guardian comments on the feeling of being overwhelmed by tools from the analog world, which 20 percent of young people complain about. HP company has coined the term tech shame for the condition.
What do we know about generations?
Let’s see a brief characterization of the main generations, and then find out what they say about themselves and how employers characterize them.
- Baby boomers (BB, boomers) – born between 1946-1964, the post-war baby boom generation. Their experiences are associated with the hierarchical model of life that emerged after the war, often working in one place for their entire lives.
- Generation X – born between 1965-1980, known as the rebellious generation. Growing up amid technological changes, in Poland, they are the “generation of ’89”, participants in social changes and builders of a new capitalist reality. They equally understand both the analog and digital worlds, are resourceful with a pragmatic approach to life, and are workaholics.
- Generation Y (Millennials) – born between 1981-1994. A generation growing up during the development of computers, the internet, and global communication. Technology is a constant element of their lives. They are confident, less attached to traditions, experienced the economic crisis at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and show greater social sensitivity, especially environmental sensitivity than their predecessors.
- Generation Z – born between 1997-2012. They are the first generation that doesn’t know the division between the analog and digital world (iGen), growing up with screens in their hands (the Selfie generation). They are masters of multitasking, confident, and ambitious. A generational experience for them will be the pandemic, social isolation, and remote learning.
Those born between 1925 and the end of the war are the so-called Silent Generation, and those born after 2010 are the Alpha Generation. We don’t know much about the Alphas yet, but we are watching them closely. As researchers predict, this generation will grow up in a world without firmly established national, racial or gender divisions, and perhaps generational divisions as well. Because of the smooth transitions between generations, usually the youngest members of the older generation and the oldest of the younger generation are similar to each other, such as the Zillenials, those born in the mid-’90s. 90.
Skeptics argue that with generational labels it is like with horoscopes, there will always be people to whom certain characteristics of a particular zodiac sign can be attributed. What is certain is what they have in common, i.e. landmark historical experiences, lifestyles, education, competencies needed at work or communication styles. However, the nature of the generations is most determined by the development of technology and science, and this is where the differences come from.
Regardless of the context, young generations entering life tend to question their parents’ world and are ready to take more risks. When starting families, they become conservative, in old age preferring to maintain the status quo and assert their views rather than question them.
Generations look at themselves in the mirror.
No generation is free from stereotypical perceptions. To get a broader picture, let’s see what representatives of each generation say about themselves when asked to point out their strengths.
Baby Boomers most often pointed to the length of experience, ability to work in a team, and then the ability to acquire new knowledge. Empathy and relationship-building skills are also important to them – according to a study “Generations in the Polish Labor Market” conducted by the Grafton company (data on other generations also come from this study).
Generation X believes that their biggest asset is the length of experience and learning skills and the ability to acquire new knowledge.
For Millennials (Generation Y), work plays a significant role in life. It should align with their interests, so they focus on interesting projects. A challenge for them is stress management. They show empathy, hence they enjoy teamwork.
Gen Z believes that their strength lies in learning and efficient knowledge acquisition. They thrive in teamwork, can stay focused, and aim to achieve their goals but not at all costs.
What do employers say about generations?
Baby Boomers: In the eyes of employers, Baby Boomers are loyal and conscientious. Half of the respondents believe that they do not like changes and react poorly to them. They value job stability and a good work atmosphere. Consistent in values upheld both at work and in personal life. They appreciate health and family life – based on the Grafton company’s research.
Generation X is characterized by precision, reliability, and loyalty. Employers appreciate their managerial skills and the ability to cope with stress – stemming from their life and professional experience. Resourceful and independent, they learn and solve problems on their own. Masters of organization, time management, conscientious and effective. They don’t like multitasking. Mature but still full of zest. Confident individuals, working as CEOs, managers, experts. Money, atmosphere, and stability matter to them. They value health, family relations, and pursuing passions. Bolder than the Boomers.
Millennials are the best employees – according to employers. Diligent and goal-oriented, they carry out their tasks meticulously. They cope well with stress and excel both in teamwork and leadership roles. Work should provide them with stability and a sense of security; hence they value a good team atmosphere. Aware of their competencies, they want to be well-compensated for them. In private, health and family come first.
Generation Z – their trait is frequent job changes and the need to maintain a balance between work and private life (as believed by 82% of employers). Gen Z’s advantage is the ability to learn quickly and integrate with the team. Among the values they uphold, health and family have surpassed pursuing passions and fulfilling dreams. They value a good work atmosphere slightly more than high remuneration.
Generations learn from each other
Generations do not live in isolation; on the contrary – even if they don’t encounter each other at work, they meet at home. Boomers are the parents of Gen X and Gen Y and the grandparents of Gen Z or Alphas. High mobility, emigration, and lifestyle force grandparents to further enhance their communication skills with their children or grandchildren.
Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, older generation workers understand very well the impact of digital changes on their professional lives. As many as 56% of Boomers agree with the statement that in the future, technology knowledge will be more important in the job market than other knowledge and skills. A similar belief is declared by 46% of Gen Z and 50% of Millennials – according to the report “Generation of a Good Career. Generations on work in Poland” from Pracuj.pl.
It’s worth noting the common experience of all generations, which was the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity of living and working in isolation. As Dr. Krzysztof Czykier from the University of Białystok observes, due to these extraordinary circumstances, we all went through an accelerated course in media education and family learning. “We learned from each other how to use multimedia, discovered previously untapped Internet capabilities and our devices. We learned to work online, study, participate in scientific conferences, take exams, “meet” on holidays and family occasions. Our parents or grandparents asked us when we would be online so that they could connect with us via a multimedia messenger.
Remember the formal communication style with the Baby Boomers Generation
Did you know that the Baby Boomer Generation might prefer more formal communication methods?
To communicate effectively with them:
- Use a more formal language and tone.
- Show respect and patience, especially if you are using new technologies.
- Be careful with direct form in interactions with them – they might not accept it.