As a society, we are (slowly) making progress on gender, ethnicity and LGBT issues. An issue which seems to be becoming more relevant is the multigenerational schism which has opened up, which no-one seems to be talking about.
Do we need to talk about this?
Yes we do. This may or may not come as a shock to you, but we have an ageing population – more people are living longer, than are being born to replenish stock. It’s true, look it up.
This presents a serious problem for our already bursting-at-the seams healthcare but there are also social implications.
There is a definite ‘us and them’ rhetoric which has emerged over the last few years. Millennials and Generation Z’s are blaming baby boomers for the housing crisis, Brexit, delays in the NHS, Shangela being robbed on RPDR and the list goes on. Baby-boomers and Generation Xers are paranoid the younger generations are going to steal their jobs, partners and parking spaces. But while we are busy blaming each other, we are not taking the time to be introspective and bring about a change with how we treat each other.
Just last week at work an older colleague of mine was showing me some PowerPoint presentations, containing some company information I required for a project, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. Further questioning by me, to try and get precisely what I was looking for, led to a frustrated and pointed response “the trouble with your generation is that you want everything immediately, like 5 minutes ago, just be a little patient”.
Not only had they hurt my feelings, but they also really hurt my feet from dropping the broom; whilst sweeping generalisations about me and my generation. OK, in all honesty, they hadn’t really hurt my feelings, but it felt a bit unfair to me. Imagine if I had said something like ‘the trouble with your generation (nameless work colleague) is that you take too long to do things and don’t listen”. It wouldn’t have just been brushed off, would it? I would have expected to have had a few stern words with an HR rep about how my use of language was ageist and discriminatory.
So why is it okay to put up with being the recipient of ageism and discriminatory language because you’re younger? Well, I don’t think it is, and I think it’s about high time we did something, as a society to bring the generations together, start working more collaboratively, harmoniously and productively.
At the time of the last celebrity Big Brother (it’s my thing, let it go) I had a conversation with an older work colleague about Ann Widdecombe’s traditionalist views. Their opinion was that; yes, while Ann’s views were out of date and offensive, they didn’t necessarily agree with them, but they thought we shouldn’t openly disagree or argue with Ann out of respect because she in an older person.
Perhaps I am under the disillusion that respect is a two way street and that regardless of age, we should respect each others views, lifestyle, gender and wardrobe. Ann’s behaviour was way more disrespectful than anyone else in that house. Blatantly showing open disgust for the way Courtney acted and dressed and misgendering India Willoughby on more than one occasion was the epitome of disrespect.
Why should everyone tip-toe around and edit themselves purely to keep someone who is older, happy? We should be free to disagree and also be free to be you and me.
The workplace Microcosm
Now, i’d like you to brace yourself, as I am going to use the aforementioned broom to make some sweeping generalisations of my own. But this time, I will be doing so to make a more positive point and using the microcosm of the workplace as an example.
Generally, the new hires in any organisation are more likely to be; younger, more tech savvy, more enthusiastic, more open to taking risks, more energetic and happy challenge processes to make them more efficient, than their older colleagues. The existing workforce will be; older, less open to change and risk, more accepting of the ‘this is how it’s always been done’ culture but less tech-savvy than their younger counterparts.
On the other hand, they have a wealth of knowledge and a network to know how to bring about change in an organisation. They know who to speak to, to make things happen and have a real understanding of the organisational culture, which is something the younger folk are lacking.
Generally, people tend to move up the career path in similar age groups and get less of a chance to work alongside other age groups. Imagine how great it would be If there were more opportunities for the different generations to come together and work more effectively, outside of the hierarchical management structure. They could; share ideas, build networks, learn what had worked/didn’t work before, adopt more flexible working styles and practices receive guidance and also talk about the challenges their age groups face. I’ve no doubt it would increase productivity and make for an all round better work environment.
Now, imagine if we could transpose this model out into the LGBT community (which, for the most part, segregates the generations) to reap the same benefits. When I was in NYC a few years back, I noticed a stark contrast in the Gay scene there, compared to that of London’s. There was a far greater mix of ages in their bars, than in ours. It seems age has been somewhat fetishised in the UK – Twinks and Twunks in G.A.Y and Heaven, Daddies and Bears in Rupert st. and Barcode. Ne’er the twain shall meet. Sad.
We have lost previous generations due to the AID’s crises of the 80’s and 90’s that could have provided support and guidance to the younger generation. As a result, it’s almost as if we no longer know how to get along with each other, or even want to. We are really missing out on the benefits of multigenerational collaboration.
In terms of societal progress – we’ve never had it so good! Yes it might be harder to own your own home, but at least we don’t have to stay closeted for fear of career suicide, like generations before us. There are more women and out-LGBT people in the workplace than ever before and we have just welcomed a biracial duchess into the Royal Family. Change is-a-comin’ for LGBT, ethnicity and gender. We’re all in this together for the long-haul, so let’s start working together.
It’s time to have the discussion about a Multigenerational society.
Do you have any thoughts about how we can collaborate more effectively, across the generations or any similar stories about generational discrimination you’d like to share with us? Then get in touch @gayboybible