Changes in style and outlook from one generation to the next is nothing new. But really taking a conscious look at those differences and applying that to the people you work with is something else altogether. At many conservation-related organizations today, the typical color of hair is not brown, blond, black or red—it’s gray. And job expectations of young new hires are very different from those ready to retire.
Bob Wendover, managing director for the Center of Generational Studies, was one of the three key speakers at the recent Missouri Natural Resources Conference. He got people laughing a lot (mostly at themselves) in describing some typical traits for the Matures (born before 1946), the Boomers (1946-64), the Gen-Xers (1965-80) and the Millenials (1981-99). A few general themes he noted about each: Matures are dedicated to a job once they take it, place duty before pleasure, believe patience is a virtue; Boomers live to work, are willing to go into debt betting on future income, tend to be team and process-oriented; Generation Xers work to live rather than live to work, having a sense of contribution while having fun is valued, see job as a contract; Millenials have been conditioned to live in the moment and get quick rewards, earn money for immediate consumption, question everything.
He described the social context in which different generations came of age and how that may have broadly influenced their outlook. (No surprise that Gen-Xers saw their boomer parents working hard while they came home to an empty house—and now seek a balance of work and family life/life outside of work.)
Wendover’s website has a lot of interesting ideas, including a suggested reading list. (Who knew there is an “American Society of Baby Boomers”?) The idea is not to typecast people, but to better understand them…and ourselves.