Last week Andrew and I made a quick trip to Calgary to see our sons, Tom and Ted, ages 21 and 19. They left Saturday with their dad for two weeks in Spain so I wanted to see them before their trip. We also have David and Rebecca, ages 21 and 16. The four of them are each very different from each other and although I know they are a small subset of the population, I also have the benefit of working with lots of other “Millennials” at the bakery. And my conclusion is that the vast amount of generalization we do about the characteristics of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials (aka Generation Y) is largely unhelpful.
Baby Boomers, born from 1945 to 1964; Generation X from 1965 to 1982; and Millennials from 1982 to 2004 are each supposed to have various traits – some good and some not so good. But I believe that young people in the 1950s were likely much like young people in the 1970s and again now in 2014: sometimes naive, a little inexperienced, occasionally self centred, often idealistic, and doing their best to be different than their parents (of course!). Then they turn 30 and like every other generation before them, usually become less naive and rebellious, and more experienced… and start talking to their own children in that cutesy voice that every generation of parents uses with their special little babies.
But the core characteristics of people’s personalities can be seen, in my experience, at any age or stage. Teddy knows everyone in any setting within a day and has been that way since kindergarten; Rebecca is perceptive and thoughtful, traits which she demonstrated when she was 8, when she’d insist on giving me the little notebooks she received in birthday party loot bags because she knew I liked them. Certainly I’ve worked with colleagues well into their forties who were fairly lazy and I have people on my team in their twenties who are incredibly hard working. We all know Baby Boomers who have moved from job to job, blaming their bosses along the way, and Millennials who demonstrate mature loyalty to an organization that might not deserve it.
I’m sure that there is a lot more to the classification of generations than I am acknowledging here but for my purposes, as a small business owner, I’ve found that it isn’t helpful to bring people’s birth years into a consideration as to whether they are going to be good for a role or not. It is what they do that matters – the whole “actions speak louder than words” concept. As a small business owner, I have better things to do than contemplate whether someone is really unreliable because they were born in 1990.