“What’s a Phone Booth”:

Millennial’s are from Mars Baby-Boomers are from Venus

As my seven year old and I were walking through downtown Phoenix he abruptly stopped and starred at a talk slender box on the sidewalk. Confused, he asked me what this strange structure was. I proceeded to explain that the object he is starring at is called a phone booth. As I tried in vain to explain to my son why people thirty years ago could not just use a cell phone I realized that, if we are not careful, that the different generations can experience a disconnect from one each other. Consequences of this disconnect can lead to strained relationships, workplace conflict, and an overall void of multi-generational collaboration.

Generation X Marks the Spot:

Each Generation and Their Characteristics

But can the world views of the various generation only separated by a maximum of 50 years really be so different as to cause disconnect? The thorough examination of the dynamics of each generation has been a staple for sociologist and psychologist for the past decade. A brief summary of the characteristics of each generations can help us better understand why inter-generational conflicts occur.

The Greatest Generation 1920-1945:

This generation witnessed everything from a great depression to World War Two. This generation is marked by personal discipline, the upholding of values, financial prudence, gratitude, and an appreciation for the simplicity of life. In addition, those within the greatest generation have a strong willpower and determination.

Baby-Boomers 1946-1965:

Like their predecessors, those born within the baby-boomer generation have a strong work ethic and are disciplined. Baby-Boomers are self-assured and have no problem questioning authority if they don’t understand a process or rule. Despite questioning authority, Baby-Boomers feel the most comfortable with structures in place because it creates a safe environment for them to achieve their goals. Baby-Boomers born closer to 1946 value traditional gender roles and the importance of the nuclear family (think Leave it to Beaver). However, those born in the mid 1960’s would slowly begin to divert from traditionalist views and question status qou.

Generation X 1966-1980:

This generation exceeds their predecessors in education and the ability to adapt to technological changes. Likewise, generation X produced men and women who are more individualistic and able to adapt to change. Given the rising divorce rates and the incline of dual income families during their childhood, Generation X babies put less of an emphasis on family unit and more on financial gain.

-Millennial Generation 1981-1996 Millennial value the concepts of justice and fairness. If they find something that they are passionate about they will exhibit high levels of motivations. They value self-expression and are driven to be original and unique. Millennial’s thrive in group settings and place a strong emphasis on finding balance between work and play. While growing up through a post 9-11 world millennial’s are skeptical of traditional religious norms.

Generation Z 1997-Present:

This generation was born into a fast-paced world full of smart phone and IPods and thus are more tech savvy than the other generations. Globalization and mass media have exposed these youngsters to various cultures and customs throughout the world. Those considered to be a part of generation Z look for more instant gratification than the previous generations.

Postage Stamps Meet Emoji’s:

How to Bridge the Gap between Each Generation

Given their differences, conflicts between the generations naturally arise. The three most common pitfalls that result in intergenerational conflict include esteeming one generation over another, stereotyping all members of specific generation, and lastly limiting your social interactions to just one generation.

Examples of conflict amongst the different generations include Baby-boomers grumbling when they observe teenagers taking phots of their evening meals and posting them to Instagram account. Likewise, Millennials do not understand why their 70 year old grandfather will buy a Sunday paper when the news can be accessed for free on the internet or broadcast on the 30 different news channels. The remedy for inter-generational conflicts rests in each generation’s ability to seek understanding as to WHY the behavior of other generations differs from their own.

Kimberly Spikemen of Concord New Hampshire recalls dreading visiting her grandmother’s home when she was a teenager. After dinnertime her grandmother would scold her if even an ounce of food was left on her plate. In addition, Kimberly was berated by her grandmother when she expressed her decision to travel the world and never marry. Feeling frustrated after one particularly intense argument about a left over carrot on her dinner plate, Kimberly finally screamed “it’s just a carrot we are not going to starve”! Her grandmother became visibly shaken and asked Kimberly to sit with her in the living room. Kimberly recalls her shock when her Grandmother revealed that she had spent time in a German concentration camp. During her interment, Kimberly’s grandmother recalls witnessing thousands of her countryman (including her own family) dying from starvation. To find a few pieces of food could mean life for just a few more days. Kimberly began to understand that the value of a carrot to her was vastly different than what that same carrot meant to her grandmother.

Kimberly’s interaction with her grandmother illustrates that individuals to some degree are products of their time; Millennials and beyond are tech savvy because must be so to survive in today’s fast paced world. Those in the greatest generation are more financially prudent due to the economic condition surrounding the Great Depression and the required rationing of good during the Second World War.

We all put on our Pants, Bellbottoms, Overalls, and Zoot Suits on One Leg at a Time

Despite their differences, the various generations have much in common. From good jokes, to smiling when hearing babies laugh, to the thrill of blowing out your birthday candles (whether there are 10 or 60) we have so many things that unite us. Human emotions such as love, empathy, and compassion transcend any timetable and as such should be at the center of our interactions no matter what the. When in doubt if you are unsure on how to interact with different generations simply try focusing on making them feel valued and welcome.