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All Fired Up! Why Generational Differences in the Workplace Aren’t What They Seem

By Barry Kluger August 11, 2020 Managing Money

You never stop worrying about losing your job, unless you’re retired. Then you’re always worried about losing your mind.

Different work ethics exist today. We boomers went on vacation and could only be reached via a hotel landline or one of those Motorola brick phones, like the one I had in the 80s.

Even then, it was too costly to have my staff call. I just told them to make a decision based on three things:

  • will I get fired,
  • will Barry get fired, and
  • will we get sued.

I told them if the answer was no to all these questions, they could safely proceed.

The Work Environment Today Is Different than the 80s

Since the 80s, we have been scared to be out of the office too long. That’s when office politics took over and those looking to edge you out, or show a boss they could do your job, in addition to theirs, sprang into action. I guess it never stops.

We were not our parents, so, many of the companies we worked for put an emphasis on the work environment. That included diversity and working alongside other boomers who had a sense of purpose, beyond working for “the man” or punching time clocks.

I happened to be in senior management for a good part of my career, but our generation sought to cast out convention and make our jobs fun. We knew that companies wouldn’t take care of us for 40 years, as they did for our parents.

The Corporate Style

So, we were the first to create company cultures that formed the basis for most corporations today. We were the first to create businesses that reflected our ideals and values.

Along the way, sometimes we re-engineered ourselves out of a job. When we did, we had the satisfaction of knowing, for most of us, that we were not stuck in a rut. We were doing something.

I look at my career in five statements:

Who is Barry Kluger?

Get me Barry Kluger!

Where is Barry Kluger?

We need a young Barry Kluger!

Who is Barry Kluger?

The Age of Millennials Is Not So Different

At 61, I started a new agency with people of my generation. Since then, we have filled many of the seats with millennials, who don’t necessarily have decades of experience, but who represent our target demographic. The media landscape has changed, but content is still king. It’s about new generations learning about new products and new advances. That part has not changed.

Now, decisions are made by clients who, in many cases, are 30 years my junior. But there’s no generation “gap” as we felt with our parents. The work we have done is the stuff that shaped this current generation and they acknowledge it. And it’s exciting.

I remember that old worn out example of age differences, where someone said: “I spoke to a kid who said: I didn’t know Paul McCartney was in a group before Wings.”

With new media, our generation’s successes and missteps are there for all to see. Hopefully they can also teach and inspire us!

I don’t worry about being fired anymore. Firings when we were younger unfairly defined us, and we fell victim to them. As a generation, we are strong and we believe in ourselves. I just go to sleep worrying how many times I’ll have to pee during the night. And no one will can me for that. For I am the Master of My Fate, I am the Captain of My Soul!

Do you work with people from different generations? What has your experience been working with younger people? What advice would you give for other boomers who have to work with people 20 or 30 years younger than them? Please join the conversation.

This is a guest post by Barry Kluger, a 30-year plus veteran communications executive serving established companies as well as start-ups with strategic planning, corporate positioning, internal and external communications, media relations, government relations, acquisition strategy and executive training.

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The Author

Barry Kluger is a 35-year communications and branding executive, having served in senior posts at some of the world’s most recognizable brands. He has been lobbying for bereavement leave for child loss to the FMLA.

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