Baby Boomers to Generation Alpha: Connecting the Dots and Bridging the Gaps
When one considers generations today, it doesn’t take long to see the disconnect and discord that exists between them. While considering how to bridge gaps between them, I think of the famous “Practice” interview between the press and Allen Iverson in a 2001 MVP press conference. https://youtu.be/eGDBR2L5kzI Two things stand out to me in that exchange; one, the lack of connection and consideration for Iverson, as a human being, by the press, and two, the distinction and disconnect between the personal, private life of Iverson the man, and Iverson the successful franchise MVP (career.) This is carried over across the board in society today and deserves a worthy discussion.
Defining Existing Generations
Generations exist and are influenced by the times in which they grow up. Let’s begin by defining the current generations that exist today. Can you identify them by name? As you read through the descriptions, recognize that no person or generation lives in a bubble. Imagine, as you read, the emotional implications and how these are walked out on a day to day basis in life, relationship, and career.
Also known as the “Me Generation” or the “Moral Authority,” the 80 million Baby Boomers were born between 1946-1964 and are ages 54-72. Bill Clinton and Meryl Streep are noteworthy Boomers. This generation was greatly shaped by pivotal historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement, The Vietnam War, the Sexual Revolution, the Cold War with Russia, and an expansion of travel into outer space. Boomers experience the highest divorce rate and second marriages in all of history. These Post War Babies grew up to be the radicals of the 70’s and yuppies of the 80’s. They were promised the American Dream as children and they actively pursue it. They are viewed in the workforce as relentless, greedy, materialistic, and all about the bottom dollar.
The 51 million strong Generation X was born between 1965-1979, are ages 39-53, and are also known as “Gen X”, “X’ers”, “The Doers”, “Post Boomers”, and the “13th Generation.” Barack Obama and Jennifer Lopez are noteworthy X’ers. Having moms go into the workforce, these Post Boomers’ worldviews were shaped as they grew up early and cared for themselves, with many being latchkey kids. They watched the divorce rate climb, dual income families often turn into single parents, and became the first group to not financially exceed their parents. They saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, gas shortages in 1976, Tiananmen Square, and the Gulf War. Many X’ers became aware of lying politicians and saw America begin to lose political clout in the world. Generation X survived parents being laid off, activism, the end of the Cold War, the Energy Crisis, and Watergate.
Xennials are the “tweens” of the generations. This group, 35-45, born 1975-1985 with approximately 21 million people, is also known as the Oregon Trail Generation, Generation Catalano, and The Lucky Ones. These crossovers tend to occur more like the Gen X’ers than the Millennials. They formed face to face relationships before social media days. They used landlines to call up friends and plan events. Their young adulthood then shifted into the digital world, which may make them a useful group to bridge gaps between Millennials and X’ers. They were hard hit by recession, student loans, and job losses. They saw huge transformations in music, industry, communications, and politics. Being that this is a new term and a forming concept, the information is not complete, but is worth watching.
Born between 1980-1994, Millennials , ages 24-38 and numbering 75 million, are also known as “Generation Y,” “Gen Y,” “Generation Next,” “Echo Boomers,” “Chief Friendship Officers,” and “24/7’s.” Ashton Kutcher and Serena Williams are noteworthy Gen Y’ers. A large number of Millennials are children of divorce who want to correct perceived wrongs in the world today and correct shortcomings of prior generations. This group was more sheltered by parents than prior generations in what became a child centric world full of school shootings and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They quickly embraced the digital world and social media. They grew up through Enron, Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and PayPal, a 50:50 split of American fundamental values, the largest global economic decline since The Great Depression in 2008, flex time, work from home, and freelancing, and nearly everyone having a modem and computer in their homes.
IGen’ers , also known as “Gen Z,” were born between 1995-2012 and are now 6-23 years old. Many of this generation haven’t made an impact on their surrounding world, yet. This group has been handed screens since birth leading to a heavy use of gaming and iPhones, often late into the night. This may explain their decreased reading of books, lack of teen job experience, loneliness, and feelings of being unneeded. They are also not engaging face to face like generations before them, not hanging out in malls, not going to movies, and not going to church. They delay driving, delay serious relationships, and take less risks. There are less teen pregnancies, less drugs and drinking for teens in this generation than prior generations. They have grown up through school shootings and major political discord. There are older iGen’ers who are fighting in Afghanistan, and the impacts of that remain to be seen.
The Basics of Influencing Generations – Alpha, The Next Generation
We must recognize that each of the generations listed above were shaped by the family. Knowing that the family unit directly affects how a generation responds to the influences of a
time period, it would be crucial for individuals and influencers to support the families of today. Mentorship, personal growth, education, and support for parents and families is key to affecting current and the new Generation Alpha. Since parents spend an average of 1.3 hours a day with their children, something must change or we will lose our influence with the next generations. Do we want broken, money centric, media driven, market/government controlled institutions having more influence over our children than we do as parents? We have to do better than 1.3 hours a day. We must intentionally grow as individuals and parents giving our children the best of us. It is really all they want. We will then see our kids respond to the events of this world in beautiful ways.
Generations as a Workforce
Intentional care must be taken with a plan in place to connect the new workforce with the older generations who lead the corporations they are hired into. As a Corporate Culture Coach, I help companies design “bridges” to help corporations value employees from every walk of life and help the employees know their worth to a thriving company. This isn’t a loss to the bottom line. This isn’t selling out for the employee. This can be a “win-win” and with careful planning, employer and employee, no matter the generation, can be content.
Understanding the values of each of these generations is of prime importance for those who hire them into the workforce. Knowing the general parenting styles and family values that each generation experienced is paramount as it reflects the behavior of the generations in a corporate setting. (Part II in this series will identify Generational Values and where they were shaped.) Even with knowledge of the defining information and an understanding of the core values of each generation, each person must be considered as a Being and not an employee number, a dollar sign, or just an MVP celebrity that you want to exploit for ratings. Cue the Allen Iverson story. Understanding, (see his Hall of Fame acceptance speech here: https://youtu.be/x67RQKknl-g ,) that it was known that Iverson’s, (Xennial,) mother went to Georgetown to beg the Coach to take her son onto the team after all other offers were pulled because of an incident in high school, Coach Thompson treated his mother and Iverson as human Beings and took him under his wing, “saving his life,” as Iverson states.
The Press should have treated Iverson with the same dignity at the “Practice” interview. I can sympathize with Iverson and even see his intelligence, his brilliance in the rant where the word “practice” was a metaphor for a private matter and “game” a metaphor for what counted for the public. Nick Ripatrazone in a Rolling Stone article in 2016 tells the entire picture and not just the Practice rant. Ripatrazone reports that in the interview, Iverson stood up for his coach, asked the press if they thought about how criticizing him, which has been everything from egotistical to drunk, affected his family, and even told how everything in his life was going downhill. The backstory: Iverson had recently lost his best friend. Yet the videos are shortened to sensationalize the rant.
There are always stories behind the scenes, and while knowledge and understanding of the times in which people in a generation are of importance, no matter the setting, considering people as living, breathing, growing, individual Beings is priority.
To be continued – Part II – Families Transform Generations; Part III Corporate Culture and Connection Between the Generations
Julianne McElroy is a wellness educator, speaker, coach, Ayurvedic Specialist, Certified Human Behaviorist, and Lavender Girl. She is mother to 4 amazing Beings who astound her on a daily basis. After tragically losing her husband to Stevens Johnsons Syndrome, she is on a mission to help others not suffer the same tragedy her family has. She is currently learning to get her fun and funny back and enjoys traveling to herbal farms worldwide, preparing healthy and flavorful offerings to guests, local community gatherings to connect and help others thrive, hiking, and everything and anything nature related. You can find her in a lavender field or at www.juliannemcelroy.com