How the Last Five Generations Have Changed Us by Tim Elmore

growing leaders.com

Folks talk a lot today about Millennials. For that matter, we’ve talked about younger generations ever since the Baby Boomers introduced the “generation gap” in the 1960s. The unique realities each generation faces as they come of age (shared tragedies, heroes, milestones, music, television shows and economy) shape us into the people we are as we enter adulthood. These realities, in fact, offer a paradigm (or lens) with which we view our world.

Today—I’d like to share some helpful observations on the five generations that are influencing our world. These observations may help you better understand a work colleague or a student with whom you interface each day. As you read the ideas below, reflect on how you might better demonstrate empathy for each generation and how you can better communicate with them. While there are exceptions in every population, I am sharing the bump part of the bell curve in the following comments.

I hope this big picture perspective will spark conversation.

Perspective Is Everything  

As students graduate into adulthood, each generation carries with it a primary lens which informs how they vote, what they buy, and why they believe and act the way they do. Consider the perspective of each new population:

The Builder Generation (1929-1945) These folks endured the Great Depression and World War II. In general, they’re frugal and know how to save money and resources. They tend to value holding on to what is right and good.

The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) These people represent the population “boom” after the war. As the largest generation to date, they felt large and in charge and expected life to be better for them than it was for their parents.

Generation X (1965-1982) This generation started with the birth control pill and Roe vs. Wade. This smaller population grew up in a broken, jaded world of Vietnam and Watergate. As realists, they know life can be hard and want to keep it real.

Millennials (1983-2000) Currently, the largest U.S. generation, they grew up in a time of helicopter parents, participation trophies, college degrees and options. They often see life as a cafeteria from which they pick and choose what they want.

Generation Z (2001-2018) This young population is still forming, but they have grown up in a time of terrorism, recession, under-employment and racial unrest. They tend to be hackers, navigating a tougher world full of social media and angst.

Personal Values as They Came of Age

The Builders – Think long term. We must plan ahead and conserve what we have.
Boomers – Anti-establishment. Don’t trust institutions; make your own way.
Generation X – Unplug and get real. Life is not full of sunshine and rainbows.
Millennials – Change the world, starting with the environment. We can do it.
Generation Z – We are aware, savvy and evolving. We value human equality.

Personal Message as They Came of Age

Builders – I’m Humble.
Boomers – I’m in charge.
Generation X – I’m scrappy.
Millennials – I’m awesome.
Generation Z – I’m fluid.

Personal Style as They Came of Age

Builders – Create the system.
Boomers – Take over the system.
Generation X – Avoid the system.
Millennials – Work within the system.
Generation Z – Work around the system.

Obviously, I am painting with broad brushstrokes.

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