The idea that the older generations don’t always see eye to eye with the younger generations is not a new concept. This type of thinking has been going on for years. These same arguments are going on today between Generation Z and the Baby Boomers. Many of the disagreements between these two generations stem from a simple misunderstanding of the other’s stance.
Misconceptions about Technology
It is a common misconception among Gen Z that Baby Boomers are “illiterate” when it comes to technology. This statement is quite untrue. While Boomers may not be as quick to adopt new technological tools, they are expanding their use of technology at a rapid pace. A study done by Pew Research shows that as of 2019, 68% of Baby Boomers now own smartphones. This means that Baby Boomers are learning and using more of the technology that is becoming available to them. The difference is that Gen Z was born with the technology and, as a result, is able to learn how to use it much more quickly.
Gen Z places a lot of the blame on Baby Boomers for the bad political policies and systems that they are now tasked with fixing. As a part of Gen Z myself, I understand the position that many of my colleagues are coming from. Many policies that were put in place in the 50s and 60s are no longer relevant in 2021. Changes have been made and the policies have been revised but the thought process behind them still remains.
Take same sex marriage for example. It was the younger generations who were pushing for it to be legalized back in 2015. Younger generations have grown up in a world where same sex marriage is normal and legal. Older generations like the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation did not grow up and live in a world like that. They grew up thinking that same sex relationships were detestable and those who were homosexual had to keep their relationships a secret. Now that it is legal, the older generations have to adjust to a new world where same sex marriage is legal and homosexual couples do not have to live in fear and in secret. It takes time to adjust to this new type of world. The problem is that Gen Z was born into it so they didn’t have to learn how to adapt and adjust. As such, it is important for Gen Z to be patient with their older colleagues as they adapt and adjust. And it is important to note that same sex marriage is not the only instance of this. There are many other things that Gen Z was born into. Things that older generations have to adjust to and learn about on their own. These topics include a more activist government, global warming and climate change, and racial equality.
Positive & Negative Stereotypes
In an article by Harvard Business Review, they found that stereotypes related to age are not always accurate. The article analyzed a survey of young, middle-aged, and older workers where they were asked to stereotype the people in the two groups they were not a part of. They were also asked to stereotype themselves. People’s stereotypes of older workers trended in a positive direction with words like “responsible” and “mature.” However, the older workers themselves worried that their colleagues would see them as “boring” and “grumpy.” The stereotypes for the middle-aged workers were mostly positive. Both of the other groups and the middle-aged workers themselves believed that they were “ethical” and “energetic.”
On the other hand, the younger group had a wider range of responses. The stereotypes that others said about them included positive responses with words like “enthusiastic” and negative responses with words like “inexperienced.” The younger groups also feared that others would see them in a negative way using words such as “unmotivated” and “irresponsible.” These stereotypes can have a negative impact on all the involved parties because they already have a preconceived notion about how the other party will act. Older groups will treat younger groups as inexperienced and irresponsible if that’s what the older groups believe the younger groups are. The younger groups will view the older ones as grumpy and stubborn because of their preconceived stereotypes.
In order to bridge this gap between the two generations, it is important to understand each other’s positions and be patient with one another. As stated in my second point, Gen Z was born into this world while the Baby Boomers are still adapting to it. It is important for Gen Z to understand this and be patient with the Boomers as they try to adapt and understand these new circumstances. It is equally important for Boomers to understand that Gen Z has not known life before this. Once the two groups are able to understand this, we can begin to have a more cooperative relationship with one another.
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