Gap (noun) A break or hole in an object or between two objects:he peeped through the gap in the curtains1. A pass or way through a range of hills:2. A space or interval; a break in continuity:there are many gaps in our understanding of what happened3. A difference, especially an undesirable one, between two views or situations:the media were bridging the gap between government and people
It is entirely natural for each generation to differ from each other. Each generation is subject to different social, spiritual, political or financial pressures. This is what we would commonly refer to as a generation gap. It is a difference in opinion between the politics, beliefs and values of two generations.
Chasm (noun):1. A deep fissure in the earth’s surface:a chasm a mile longfigurative he was engulfed in a chasm of despair2. A profound difference between people, viewpoints, feelings, etc.the chasm between rich and poor
The forces acting on a generation vary widely, with crises such as war, recessions or great political unrest acting on people to shape their views and values. For example, war time was a great definer of ‘The Great Generation’ who are World War II veterans where political and financial uncertainty defined these people. Compared with their offspring, the Baby Boomers, who compared to their parents, grew up in a time of relative stability and financial security. No two generations have the same experiences and this is therefore reflected in their outlook on the world.
Here in Australia, the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Gen X/Y/Millenials is getting a great deal of attention, especially in an election year from young voters. As around the western world, there is a great deal of thinking about how Gen Y has found itself in a precarious position as a side effect of the successes of the Baby Boomers. Specifically, Gen Y members may be bringing up the rear when it comes to housing affordability, employment opportunities. In addition to this, the sheer number of ageing Baby Boomers who will be reliant on public services such as health in the future will lead to very significant financial strains on the population.
Unsurprisingly, the perceived face off between Baby Boomers and Gen Y is somewhat controversial. As expected, it’s not too hard to find a Baby Boomer who feels that Gen Y are a bunch of lazy, entitled brats who enjoy nothing more than complaining. Likewise, Gen Y may be tired of being dictated to by conservative and selfish leaders who have no interest in the opinions of the younger folk. And no more now in Australia. Aside from concerns over housing prices, lack of job security or personal wealth, the current federal election has seen many younger voters feel entirely disenfranchised by a system that does nothing to help us achieve our goals, as the Baby Boomers have been able to do.
The workplace is a fertile battle ground for the inter-generation war. Baby Boomers hold positions of power at many of the organisations that Gen X/Y/Millenials are employed at. The workforce is ageing, leaving many younger people without jobs that they have trained for; graduate unemployment is at an all time high in this country. Baby Boomers value experience and graduated climb up the corporate ladder; Gen Y want to be recognised in a kind of meritocracy where ideas matter, not length of service. Baby Boomers were a generation of long work hours and immense personal sacrifice while Gen Y value hard work, but also value personal or family time. Ageism exists in the reverse also, with older workers struggling to get back into the workforce. You could not have two more different groups, trying to work together.
The friction created can be immense. The battle cry of the Baby Boomer, ‘They’re nothing like us’ is both right and wrong at the same time. No, we are not like you. As Baby Boomers were not like their parents’ generation either. But that does not mean that we don’t want the same things. We want job satisfaction, we want appropriate renumeration and recognition for our work. We want to achieve and do a good job.
The similarities should get us to the table. The differences between the generational workforces should be embraced. Time Magazine, the New York Times and Forbes have all written on the generation gap at work and the common theme is this. We ALL have something to offer, something to learn from the other and we all have biases. Workplaces work better when we realise that although we may need and want individual recognition or advancement, we work together, not in isolation to a common end.
In this election year, our politicians seem to have forgotten the value in collaboration. With Gen Y having the ability to be the deciding vote, the lack of commitment to matters that are the heart of this generations concerns is short-sighted and selfish. This can be reflected in the unwillingness of Gen Y to even enrol to vote; it is not laziness but rather symptomatic of a widespread disillusionment with our elected ‘leaders’. The values that matter to younger Australians barely get a mention. Housing affordability, refugees, environmental concerns, gender and race equity and marriage equality are back burner issues.
The generation gap is in my opinion, an understatement. The generation gap in the workplace is making an entire generation feel impotent as Baby Boomers hold on to the reins from it’s ‘lazy, greedy’ successors. The generation chasm created in politics on serves to further disable young Australians to experience the fulfilment that Baby Boomers have had. Just as their parents thought them, Gen Y is not like the Baby Boomers and not in a good way. It is long past due that Australians, not generations, work together to create some equity between generations and create a stable future for all Australians.