(How honesty can help a Boomer win friends and influence people.)
Director of Operations at Huddle
There has always been a lot of discussion about the differences between the various generations. Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z and of course Boomers who were trending in 2019 and not because they wanted to. “Ok, Boomer” became a trending phrase for all the wrong reasons, especially if you’re a Boomer! The meme is a dismissal of the perceived narrow-mindedness of the Baby Boomer generation (1946 – 1964), typically used by members of Gen Z and millennials on social media platforms like Tik Tok.
We’ve all got used to being bagged by a different generation. I know I hated that first moment in the office when I asked a colleague for help with my new iPhone and her response was “Yeah, my Mum struggles with that too.” I hadn’t asked her because she was younger but because she had the same phone, but it was the first moment I realised that whilst I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the difference in age of my colleagues, they perceive me differently because of my age. They are all in one group really. The anyone below 40 group. I was probably 46ish when this encounter happened.
It’s easy to get caught up in the whole ageist thing and it is definitely a reality but it’s just the same as any other discrimination. It’s a generalisation until you engage personally with the person you’re discriminating against. So, it’s really up to you to understand it and use it for the benefit of everyone involved. If you’re in the Boomer category, we have emotional wisdom and life experience that younger people don’t have yet. We have the maturity to choose to not be offended and see how we can improve the situation and be part of the solution. I’m a big believer in the knowledge that being vulnerable gives another person permission to do the same.
Some years ago, the advent of the digital age swept through the marketing and advertising industry and brought change in a way I’ve never seen in this industry before. It was frightening and intimidating and many of us who’d been around a while were defensive and confused. Not least because an entire new language that is still evolving every day, appeared and further bamboozled us (that is not a digital term). I made a decision pretty early on that I was not going to be afraid to make a fool of myself by asking what I didn’t understand, and I was going to do something pro-active about my lack of knowledge.
When the digital people in the agency started using terminology I didn’t understand in meetings, I stopped them and asked them to use language everyone could understand. There was some resistance but also a collective sigh of relief in every room this happened. I was not the only one in the room to think I had been transported to another planet, but I was the only person who was prepared to be vulnerable. The younger people in the same room didn’t understand the complex new terminology any more than I did but they didn’t have the life and professional experience I did. They learned something about life on these occasions and I learned what widgets, wire frames QR codes were. We all benefitted without me being heavy handed and lecturey, which is a little bit about what “Ok, Boomer was about.
Younger generations have so much to offer and teach us. They are far more outspoken and energised than many of us were at that age. They are informed and confident. They know what they want and what they don’t want. They definitely don’t accept the status quo. I suspect all of these qualities were great ingredients for many of the cultural revolutions that have happened the history of the world. We can learn a lot from them and if we have that attitude, they will be a lot more willing to hear the wisdom we have that I know are very willing to share. Have you noticed that we learn something from every person we meet? It’s not always something we want to hear or agree with, but every encounter challenges us. If we can be authentic in our interactions with every generation, we will reap the benefits and depending what you’re into you may get more than you bargained for!