Scandalous generation or just a young people thing?

Lazy. Demanding. Disrespectful. Self-obsessed. Rude. These are just some of the words that are associated with Generation Y. We also spend all our money without considering the need for a savings account for a rainy day (or a house deposit), lack etiquette, spend all our time online instead of communicating person to person and expect not to have to work hard in life, but be given the same rewards as the generations before us. But is this actually an accurate description of Generation Y, or is it just how older generations view younger generations?

Take this quote for instance.

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”

It may sound like something one of our politicians might have said just yesterday, but this quote is actually attributed to Hesiod, a Greek poet that lived in the eighth century BC.

Similarly, it is said Plato attributed the following quote to Socrates (469-399 BC).

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

And in 1274, during a sermon, Peter the Hermit (a priest of Amiens), said this:

“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”

What is scandalous to older generations today (e.g. Lady Gaga, short skirts and social media) might actually be a way of a younger generation pushing the values of older generations to establish their own identity. Consider this, the 1960s was the year the mini-skirt, PVC dresses and go-go boots were first introduced. In the 1950s, Elvis was considered the devil by the older generation.

It’s interesting to see then, while the younger generation has been criticised throughout the ages, a recent research report claims that it’s the Baby Boomers that are the least liked people in the workplace. And before you say that it’s the disrespectful Gen Y that has concluded this, the research shows that Baby Boomers actually don’t like their fellow Boomer colleagues!

Leadership Management Australia (LMA), a training company, commissioned the survey of 774 workers. They found that only 4 per cent of Gen Ys and Gen Xs enjoy working with their older counterparts. Boomers were portrayed as technologically inept, inflexible, and set in their ways, while even Boomers described themselves as self-obsessed.

Grant Sexton, Executive Chairman of LMA said that “it appears baby boomers are perceived to be less willing to adapt and change quickly. Apparently, they’re less tolerant of the needs and expectations of younger generations, and they “judge other people’s attitudes and performance in the workplace by their own standards.”

This begs the question, are Baby Boomers actually less willing to adapt and change and are they really less tolerant of younger generations? Or are we, like the generations before us, simply stereotyping people based on age? While about a year ago, the media loved to condemn Gen Y, has the trend now moved to the Baby Boomers?

There’s plenty of research out there that shows that it is more beneficial for organisations to retain Baby Boomers rather than pushing them towards retirement (some of which has been discussed in previous posts). Perhaps what is needed is better communication between the generations.

The National Youth Agency and BethJohnson Foundation in England have worked together to develop youth-led intergenerational practice since 2009. In 2001, Beth Johnson Foundation defined intergenerational practice as:

“Intergenerational practice aims to bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities which promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contributes to building more cohesive communities. Intergenerational practice is inclusive, building on the positive resources that the young and old have to offer each other and those around them.”

With different generations preferring to communicate through different mediums, it might be as simple as asking your employees how they prefer to communicate and receive their information. Discussing options as to how best to incorporate their preferences into the organisation’s communication model can go a long way to improve communication between generations.

Ellis Jones specialises in developing creative and effective marketing and communications campaigns for the health and ageing sector and companies seeking advice on how to engage an older workforce.

image credit : autistics