• Susanne Jones, Just Better Care Kallangur

Gen Y vs. Boomers – Generational Differences


Having just returned from a week at beautiful Toogoom Beach with my children, their friends, my husband, dogs and bird, I feel totally pumped to write about generational differences. Or maybe not. After a week spent with four highly educated, self-reliant, innovative and goal-oriented social media addicted adolescents, I feel a mixture of exhaustion, amusement, pride, wonder, frustration and curiosity!

My husband and I (proudly) identify with Generation X, while our children are sitting at the far end of Generation Z … according to all statistics that is. Being able to not only observe my children but also their friends has given me the opportunity to revisit any pre-perception and assumptions pertaining to generational differences. In addition, knowing that I would write this small piece upon my return, I am so glad to have taken the approach of engaging Baby Boomer and Gen Y friends and colleagues to assist me, rather than solely relying on statistical analysis of research and bias.

I am asking myself, who am I to judge a person by their statistical age? And how does their ethnicity and culture, personality, sexual orientation, values systems, upbringing, environment, IQ, EQ, trends, influences and more shape their generational characteristics? Or is it the other way around?

Mindfulness, the willingness to learn from each other, a respectful acceptance of opinions and a focus on positively transparent communication may be the only way to overcome any differences moving forward.

Meet Karen and John (the Boomers) and Emily and Matthew (the Gen Ys) and see their independent responses to eight simple questions below.

Meet Karen and John

Baby Boomers

What comes to mind when you hear the expression Generation Y?

Karen: Tech savvy, aware, ask why, lifestyle centred and sceptical.

John: Not mindful of others, selfish, do not rate the experience of older people.

How do you recognise a person who identifies as Gen Y?

Karen: Informal, impatient, attached to phone (or tablet), street smart.

John: Attitude and outlook – thinking they know it all.

What are two major differences between BB’s and Gen Y?

Karen: BBs automatically respect authority, work hard; Gen Y will only respect if BB is real and live out their values; work must fit with their lifestyle (opposite to BB).

John: Experience and respectfulness.

Why do you think communication is a challenge for BB’s and Gen Y?

Karen: They don’t (generally) understand where they each are coming from: different influences, TV, music, and internet – less strong ‘real’ leaders.

John: One does not want to listen or learn from the other.

What do you think has shaped the upbringing of Gen Y?

Karen: Technology, TV, internet (access to ‘how to’ is immediate) and environmental issues – some blame BBs for the problems.

John: Most things handed to them on a platter.

Define two strengths and two weaknesses each (if any).

Karen: Strengths - want to engage in decision making (they have a lot to offer) and are innovative given the chance; Weaknesses - Don’t want to be ‘told’ and want everything ‘now’.

At which day-to-day situation are both likely to clash or misunderstand each other?

Karen: Differences in values, understanding of work ethics; when asked to do something they want to know why something needs to be done; what it will achieve and why they are the one to do it. (They will do it but not necessarily fully engaged).

John: The importance of experience and knowledge in the workplace.

What advice (if any) would you offer to a Gen Y person?

Karen: I love Gen Yers, however, it’s too easy to think they think like I do and when I forget there is the possibility that respect is lost…

John: Listen, learn and then apply (be patient).

Meet Emily and Matthew

Generation Y

What comes to mind when you hear the expression Baby Boomers?

Matthew: People who were born post World War II and are in their 50s-60s now.

Emily: My parents - traditional and old school.

How do you recognise a person who identifies as a Baby Boomer?

Matthew: From the way they communicate. They are the ones who are stuck in their own way of doing things and can not change easily.

Emily: They find it hard to keep up with technology and current trends. Things are black and white for them.

What are two major differences between BB’s and Gen Y?

Matthew: Gen Y may be regarded as lazy, whereas BBs are hardworking and know their stuff well.

Emily: Baby boomers are more ‘play safe’ thinkers, whereas Gen Y are more out-of-the-box thinkers. BB’s can be stoic in their views, Gen Y are more open to new ideologies.

Why do you think communication is a challenge for BB’s and Gen Y?

Matthew: The thinking process may be different. BBs think Gen Y are lazy and there might be a disrespecting factor too.

Emily: Not always the case but sometimes I feel that it’s a case of having that level mutual respect for each other’s views and opinions that poses the challenge – BB’s may feel that Gen Y are incapable and thus, they don’t value their opinions strongly as they would of other BB’s, whereas Gen Y’s could have the mindset that their way of thinking is superior to BB’s and more progressive/original, giving them a sense of heightened ego.

What do you think has shaped the upbringing of BB’s?

Matthew: Their own experiences and hard working attitude.

Emily: Just growing up with the traditional family values of working hard and earning, not demanding respect.

Define two strengths and two weaknesses each (if any).

Matthew: Gen Y strengths - adapt to change easily, weakness - technology addict; BBs Strength- independent, hardworking, weakness - struggle to change with time.

Emily: BB strengths – decisions usually backed by experience, earn their respect, BB weakness – less open to change. GY weakness – high expectations of what the society ‘owes’ them, entitlement.

At which day-to-day situation are both likely to clash or misunderstand each other?

Matthew: Trying to communicate change, technology, the struggles BBs had.

Emily: Nothing I can think of.

What advice (if any) would you seek from a Baby Boomer?

Matthew: The way they would like to be communicated to.

Emily: Nothing I can think of.

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