Generational Bias: Can We Not?

It seems a fact of life that generations will not get along. Boomers have an issue with Millennials; Gen X gets left out of the conversation; Gen Z has a problem with everyone. It is exhausting keeping up with the arguments. And organizations and the media fuel the problem even more. Continuing to widen this gap and create bias among the generations is not helping anyone; it’s not in good fun; and honestly, it’s just creating more division. And we ALL really need to cut it the hell out.

We can all have issues with one another. There are things about other generations that I don’t care for. But I also don’t need to be a dick about it. And that’s really what I’m advocating in my life: stop being a dick.

But Give Me a Moment to Be a Dick

One of my life philosophies is “don’t be a dick”. I try to remember everyone’s going through stuff, and I don’t give to contribute to the negative nature of the world. So, give me a hot second to be a little bit of a dick right now for all the times I’ve seen people rip on people younger or older than them and thinking they’re so much better. It’s gotten on my nerves.

A general message for people of EVERY generation:

Shut the fuck up. Your generation is not better than any other. You are not superior because of the generation you were born in. But you insisting upon your superiority is continuing to further gaps between the generations. Everyone needs to realize NO ONE IS BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE based on the generation you were born in.

And maybe once we get that through our skulls, we can have some light-ribbing on each of the generations. And maybe—MAYBE—if we’re really, really good and become a little more humble and accepting of one another (can we do that folks?). Maybe after that, we can start discussing pros and cons of each generation and what we can learn from them.

Phew. I feel better getting that out of my system. So, let’s talk about why we need to stop with, what I’m calling, generational bias.

What Do I Mean When I Say Generational Bias?

Basically: creating bias over different generations.

So, you know how each generation likes to brag about how great it is and how terrible all the other ones are?

That’s what I mean when I say creating bias. You’re essentially saying that somehow you are better than others based just on the generation you were born in. That other generations are deficient compared to you.

And while some do this as a joke, there are too many that do this seriously. I can’t tell you how often I, as a millennial, feel targeted from news and media outlets, but I was also targeted at work. That’s not right. My generation is no worse or better than any other, so why do people feel justified in tearing us apart?

In the time that I was in the office, there was a lot more (terrible) “information” coming out about “how to work with millennials”. Which really only made my managers condescend to me and my millennial coworkers even more. More than that, no one stood up for us. Company videos and training materials told us, the younger people, to respect our older coworkers and hear them out. But no one ever told our older colleagues to treat us with the same respect. This is an attitude that still seems to continue both inside and outside the workspace.

And now generational bias is just fodder that news, media, and people use to widen the gaps between all of us.

Why Do I Care About This?

Because it’s hurting everyone. If we’re constantly bad-mouthing Boomers, then we stop caring about people in older generations. Not saying that Boomers are old or elderly, but they are getting older. And society has a disgusting habit of ignoring or shunning our elderly. We don’t want to encourage that. And being angry at Boomers for your perceived issues with them has to the potential to mean that we close ourselves off to older generations.

The same is true for younger generations. We become prejudiced against them because “they’re just kids; they don’t know anything about the world.” And just the same way your own kids feel when you’re belittling them because “they’re just kids”, Gen Z picks up on that attitude too.

Also, it’s just not a smart idea to constantly trash-talk the younger generations because at some point, they’ll be the ones taking care of the older ones. (A further friendly reminder to the older generations: all the issues you have with the younger generations? I’d like to remind you that they didn’t raise themselves; you raised them. So, a lot of the issues that you claim to have with them? You contributed to that, so you can’t throw blame solely onto them.)

Ultimately, this generational bias creates an us versus them mentality, which we don’t need. We’re all trying to do our best and survive, so why do we need to create further division between the generations?

Closing ourselves off from different generations and furthering this generational bias just means we don’t get the opportunity to learn from each other. We’re too busy being annoyed and angry at our differences that we can’t benefit from the goods that come from each generation.

You’re Allowed to Dislike and Disagree, but Stop Generalizing

Now, listen, before I do my own “here’s some good things from the generations”, I feel like I need to stress something. You can have things you dislike about certain generations, if you’re seeing they’re common. I’m not saying you can’t dislike things. If you think too many young people are disrespectful, fine; that’s your opinion. If you think older people aren’t aware enough of the changes to the times and society, again that’s your opinion.

The issue isn’t necessarily having the opinion. It’s enforcing it and then generalizing an entire generation, and continuing to feed the bias against that generation. Doing that means you’ll always be looking at people from that generation as though they are this one quality that you hate.

We cannot be generalizing individuals in terms of generational stereotypes. Again, that’s harmful. It creates prejudices against each other, and then we’re all just at war with one another. We don’t want that. We cannot learn and grow from one another if we’re constantly at war with each other.

With that out of the way, I want to write about qualities in the generations I admire.

Baby Boomers

Boomers talk a lot about respect and earning your way. And some of that, I’ll agree to. In the olden days, people valued things more. Society and things weren’t as disposable as they are now. Everything from appliances to relationships are easily thrown away and forgotten about today.

But Boomers can remember a time where you didn’t do that. You worked on things and you tried to fix them because you recognized the value in them.

Sure, products today are cheaper, and thus don’t work as well, but that’s not really the point here. We as a society are just happy to throw things away when they don’t work and get something new. It means we’re contributing to a lot of physical waste in the world. And in terms of relationships? It means we’re not building genuine connections, learning how to foster them, and figuring out how to work on them when things get tough. Our relationships are weaker.

And I don’t mean we should hang onto relationships that are literally falling apart or are abusive; I’m not encouraging that. But too many people stop caring about relationships and friendships because they know that everyone is replaceable. How do you build meaningful relationships when you know you can simply throw everyone away and try again?

So, the commitment to trying to fix things is something good I’ve been able to see and learn from the Baby Boomer generation.

Gen X

The generation that often feels like it gets overlooked. And maybe it sometimes does. But Generation X has taught us the value in taking steps and leaps of faith. This is the generation of growing and developing technologies. The .com boom. Computers were slowly starting to come into homes.

And with that, it saw people who expanded their minds and grew in technological know-how. From this generation came the birth of these advancements in technology that we see to this day. And this is the generation that stepped forward and took chances in this new technological world. From that, I see bravery, excitement, passion. To try new things and see where it takes you.

(Plus, I have a weakness for the 80s. Loved the style, love the music. There was definitely a streak of uniqueness from this generation)

That’s something of the Gen Xers that I admire.

Millennials

Hard for me to say, being a Millennial myself. All I hear from the media (and colleagues) is how terrible, lazy, and entitled we are, and I’m quite burnt-out from it.

But because of that, right now I admire Millennials’ resilience. Yes, I’m tired of being resilient, but I’m so proud of how even in the face of all the hardships and struggles we’re dealing with, we still keep standing and trying to fight. Years of being told we’re entitled because we wanted jobs after our degrees, despite everyone around us saying a good job just relied on us getting degrees. Graduating during a recession. Unable to settle down and build our lives the way the generations before us did, all while constantly getting told it’s because we’re not doing enough.

More than that, we’re starting to call that out. And THAT, that I’m proud of. The generation that realized we don’t have to conform to what the generations before us were. Sure, some of that might be out of our control, but others we controlled. No longer buying diamond engagement rings? What do we need those for anyway?

I’m proud of our resilience and our awakening to a need to change. In that sense, maybe we’re a good bridging generation. Because, damn, Gen Z got a lot they want to change.

Gen Z

Gen Z wants to change the world and they’re not afraid to let it be known. And that is awesome to see. As a Millennial, I feel we’re trapped in wanting to see change, but still feeling some need to stick to the rules and not rock the boat.

But Gen Z? They do not care. They are just out there, knowing that society’s still got a lot of problems, and they’re not gonna stand for it. It’s amazing to see a generation that really is pushing for this without fear. And I admire that. Gen Z are fighters. And I hope they continue to use that passion and energy for good.

And I hope some of us in the older generations catch on and stop feeling the need to cling to norms. Sure, there are some norms that we need (I’m still a fan of respect, working hard, contributing to society however you can, to name a few). But I think there’s a lot we could learn from the younger generation—if we stop being prejudiced against them for their “crime” of youth.

Final Thoughts on Generational Bias

Generational bias affects every single one of us. And if we’re prejudiced against different generations, then we’re always going to be at war with one another. And how do we grow and improve as a society if the older and younger generations can’t sit down and get along?

The reason I included things I admire about each of the generations is to show that we all have something to learn from one another. Acting like we can’t learn anything from Boomers or Gen Z—and anyone in between—alienates the generations. And ultimately, the good characteristics could start to deteriorate. We don’t want that. We should want to preserve the good traits from each generation and improve upon them.

Moreover, generational bias makes us look at each other as a group, as opposed to individuals that make up a group. I don’t want to risk people hating all of an entire generation because of a stereotype. That will equally lead to a dark future.

So, let’s do a little better at relating to one another. Stop the generational bias. That’s how to make the future a little brighter.

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