I’ve written often about how we need to stop talking smack about Generation Y, and how important it is for complaining Baby Boomers to recognize the contributions the young can make in the workplace and to start preparing them to lead. There are many reasons for this, including:
- The talent gap we should be expecting as aging Boomers retire and Generation X has no where near the numbers to fill their shoes
- The ease and skill Gen Y has with technology, and how far we have to go in harnessing that skill
- Gen Y’s penchant for teamwork
- The fact that the old have always complained about the young, ever since Socrates, in 400 BC said, “Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” It’s a cliche and it’s time to get over it.
- Finally, the simple fact that the complaining Baby Boomers are Gen Y’s parents. Who made them what they are? Quit complaining and deal with it!
Last week’s Newsweek ran an article by David Frum titled Get the Old Off the Road! He means it both literally and figuratively, and his analysis of our current and dire situation is scathing. The Boomers are sacrificing the young in every way, he says, from endangering public safety by driving past a safe age, to “offloading budget pain” through proposals to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits for the old at the expense of the young, to the dismal job prospects and standard of living expectations today’s graduates face. While I’m not interested in arguing the politics of his points, I do think he identifies a trend in attitude that is to be taken seriously.
“No doubt Cro-Magnons complained that their kids didn’t appreciate their effort to put a nice, dry cave above their heads,” Frum writes. “Yet we seem today to hear a new bitterness in the attitudes of the old, a special glee in reproaching and denouncing the young. In 2012 job seekers outnumber jobs offered by a margin of 3–1, down from a post-Depression record of 5.5–1 in early 2009, with the ratio worst among the youngest workers. As young job applicants collect rejection slips, the leading conservative policy intellectual, Charles Murray, has publicly urged his fellow older Americans to regard unemployed young men as ‘lazy, irresponsible, and unmanly’ and to publicly revile them as ‘bums.’”
I’ve been saying for years that there’s nothing new about the old complaining about the young. Is it true, that we’ve escalated our complaints to new and dangerous heights? If so, we should heed Frum’s warning: “…the young are the country’s future. If it’s uncaring for society to neglect the old, it’s outright suicidal to cannibalize the life chances of the rising generation.”