April 3, 2012 - FILED UNDER Collaboration
Pre-Boomers at Work: Navigating the Challenges
Though Pre-Boomers have largely left the workforce, their shifting experiences throughout the last handful of decades provide great examples for how each generation will have to deal with change over the course of its time in the office. Naturally, now in the sunset of their careers, the pain points they bring to the table are byproducts of both having been here the longest and their upbringing.
They’re Not Your Peers
In a Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey from 2009, respondents ages 65 and up were asked to identify some of the good things they’ve experienced with growing older. “Getting more respect” was cited by 56 percent of the 65-74s and 62 percent of the 75-plusers.
We’ve seen this mindset surface in several areas of the office. As bosses, Pre-Boomers have gained a reputation for displaying the type of command-and-control leadership that is reminiscent of their parents’ style. They’ve also exhibited a preference for hierarchical organizational structures over horizontal models, and often don’t respond well to the modern work trends that social media outlets have inspired.
Pre-Boomers were taught to trust big institutions because they were built by people who made major sacrifices, and they were taught that they’d get ahead by playing by the rules. This presents several problems in today’s fast-paced, agile world of business, as constant change and pivoting around it becomes more of a necessity than a trend.
Today this generation is doing what it can to find a balance between traditional and modern logic. “They’re having a second middle age…” said Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing. “And they’re making it up as they go along, because it’s never been done before.” In fact, the same Pew survey reported that 60 percent of respondents age 65 and up said they feel younger than their actual age: “Among respondents ages 65 to 74, a third say they feel 10 to 19 years younger than their age, and one in six say they feel at least 20 years younger than their actual age.” When asked flat out whether they “feel old,” 78 percent of the 65-74s and 61 percent of the 75-plusers said “no.”
Kevin Medina, a marketing consultant and president of Medina Associates, offers one simple suggestion for working with this bracket: “…you need to prove that there’s a need for something new, rather than just winning by saying it is new. They are looking for real need.”
This is a body of people whose characteristics have certainly served to keep us strong in difficult times, and that kind of commitment can be a major asset in today’s volatile work environment. Given the opportunity, younger generations can take their behaviors as a gift of legacy and significantly improve the health of their own organizations.