Today we spoke with generations expert, Kristin Scroggins of GenWhy about the current living and working generations and micro-generations in America:
- Traditionalists born 1924 to 1933 – Babies of the Great Depression
- Silent Generation born 1934 to 1945 – Marked by loyalty and longsuffering
- Boomers born 1946 to 1955 – Never going to retire because job and identity very intertwined
- Flower Children born 1956 to 1965– Children of the Silent Generation who swung far the other way
- Gen X born 1966 – 1977 – Original latch key kids and grew up taking care of themselves
- Xennials born 1978 – 1984 – Also latch key kids and took care of themselves but taking on some characteristics of Millennials
- First half of Millennials born 1985 to 1995 – Parents were more communicative and tolerant
- Second half of Millennials or “Gen Z” born 1996 – 2005 – Took on a new name because “Millennial” had negative connotations but many of same traits as their just older brothers and sisters
- Gen Alpha Born 2006 to 2015 – Might someday be called the “Coronials” or “Quaranteenagers” or “Zoomers”
Kristin started trying to understand generational differences while working with millennials as a college professor. She has great admiration for Gen Y or Millennials because of their ability to pivot and flex. Kristin herself is of the Generation X, and her humor and candor about this subject are infectious.
Kristin has worked with some huge clients including NASA and Missile Defense Agency, and she jokingly says “We all hate each other” and “I’m able to say things sometimes that HR can’t legally say.” In all seriousness, Kristin helps us to understand that the key to understanding generations is to understand childhood. Specifically, it is important to understand how parents were parenting their children in a given time period. Triggers such as the Great Depression, War, and the Digital Revolution change parenting thus changing the core values of the child.
Kristin explains that generations often go in the extreme opposite direction of their parents. Gen Xers for example, the children of Boomers, want to talk with their kids about EVERYTHING because their stoic parents were very focused on competition, stoicism, and work. Their parents were more prone to miss important events in their lives, so Gen X women often focus strongly on their children AND still trying to be successful professionally. Gen X women tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves and stretch themselves professionally and personally while trying to make it all look “effortless.”
Kristin makes clear that the things that Millennials do are entirely predictable. Their parents were trying to make them not so overly competitive in unhealthy ways. Dr. Spock’s book influenced parenting, and parents were prompted to exercise more communication and tolerance. So, the result is entirely predictable. Millennials expect to be talked with and want to be understood and their needs met. Kristin also explained that a reason many Millennials are successful is that they know they can walk away because their parents assure them of a soft place to land. This is powerful and effective leverage for Millennials.
Generations do not typically get a name until they name themselves. So, time will tell what Gen Alpha will call themselves.
In the end, Kristin wraps up by reiterating that everyone has a role to play in the workplace and in other organizations. Understanding what makes people tick helps us be better, helps teams function better, and helps group dynamics improve.
In addition to her website, find Kristin at LinkedIn.
- The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Haugh.
- Business Insider (2020) – “From Gen Z spring breakers to toilet paper-hoarding boomers, the coronavirus pandemic is a case study in generational differences. Here’s how each generation is dealing with it.”
- Atlantic (2020) – “Gen-X Women Are Caught in a Generational Tug-of-War”