Generations shaped by history, not stereotypes

TJ Warren, above, works in an intergenerational workspace at Pathway in Wartburg College.
TJ Warren, above, works in an intergenerational workspace at Pathway in Wartburg College.

While there are plenty of negative stereotypes facing Millennials, Generation X and the Baby Boomers themselves aren’t left unscathed. Negative expectations for any generation are hardly new, but many Millennials may not be aware of the harmful beliefs held for older coworkers.

 TJ Warren, an associate for vocation and mentoring, said the stereotypes facing all generations are loosely based and shouldn’t be applied to all employees.

 “Even though this is a concept and people study it and it’s well researched, we shouldn’t generalize, stereotype and keep people in a box,” Warren said.

Generations can be better defined and understood by looking at major historical events which occurred during years of growth, Millennial speaker

Crystal Kadakia explained in a Huffington Post Blog. That in mind, what has defined the Baby Boomers and Generation X?

 Easily the largest generation with 78.8 million people according to a 1999 census by Pew Research Center, the Baby Boomers got their name after young men returned home from World War II and began having children.

Those who grew up during this time period were shaped by historical events which would later end up in Millennials’ history textbooks. The Korean War, Brown v. Board of Education, The Pill, the Vietnam War and Woodstock all shaped the Baby Boomer perspective.

 Stereotypically, those of the Baby Boomer generation would be labeled as optimistic, micro-managers and diligent.

Generation X was tagged as the “middle child” of America in a recent article by Pew Research Center. The Generation X label applies to those around 34 to 49-years-old and is the bridge between two very diverse generational groups, the Millennials and the Baby Boomers.

Children growing up as Generation X were some of the first to have an income from two parents coupled with an increasing divorce rate. The end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as MTV and the Internet were all key historical points for this generation.

 Generation X is stereotyped as cynical, independent and pessimistic.

 Ashley Rosa, a third-year college student, said more often than not, most of the stereotypes for older generations can be tied to technology and different communication methods.

 “I think there are manner stereotypes that anyone over 50 is ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘traditional’ and those often take negative connotations,” Rosa said. “We seem to think in the U.S. that anyone who is older has different views or does not know how to work technology.”

 It is easy to slap labels on people of a certain age, Torie Jochims, co-author of “Conquering the Witch Within: Intergenerational Work Place Strategies that Create Real Results,” said.

“I think overall you have to be willing to understand there will be communication breakdowns on both sides and be willing to work through that from both sides,” Jochims explained. “Just view people as people and judge based on their work ethic and attitude in the office rather than how old or young anyone is.”


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