It’s been a year since Anna Quindlen wrote her last column for the back pages of Newsweek. I heard her a couple of days ago on NPR – it sounded like she’s happy with her decision, and she’s still advising other Boomers to “step aside” like she did. It made me go back to that last column and I was moved again – not only by her words – but by the thoughts of her readers. Here is a summary of what I saw:
“The baby-boom generation has created an interesting conundrum for this country. Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers take up more room than any other generation in American history. They now account for about a quarter of the population. And so, inevitably, they have created a kind of bottleneck, in the work world, in politics, in power. The frustration this poses for the young and talented should be obvious. In my personal life it was reflected powerfully on the day when, talking of the unwillingness of my friends to retire, my eldest child noted, “You guys just won’t go.”
Wow! Boomer readers how does that make you feel? Here’s what some readers said:
- Something is wrong when the voices of one age must be silenced to make room for another. Older people struggle with irrelevance and women in particular get the message that after a certain age they should simply disappear. As long as we are alive we have a right to contribute.
- “You just won’t go,” [referring to Anna’s son’s comment ], “is a message I find deeply offensive and sad.”
- Anna “shot herself in the foot and took us with her.”
- But then there was the younger reader – Gen X? Gen Y? – who said baby boomers are not special and that they should get past their collective self righteousness. His parting comment: “Life’s a pisser.”
Since I make my living keynote speaking on the topic of generations in the workplace, I meet a lot of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers , and this is a hot and emotional subject.
I see the value all generations bring to the table. Today success is about blending our skills, talents and our expertise – We need the experiences and wisdom of the boomer more than ever. Titles may change but the need for boomer input and guidance is still important- it will take on a different form like; mentoring, blogging, volunteering, sharing- you get my drift? Think Tom Peters, Seth Godin, and okay, Karen McCullough!
We need the critical viewpoint and efficient talents of Gen X to move the projects along. Gen X ‘s creativity and time-saving processes have great value. Gen X is sandwiched between two aggressive generations and can easily be pushed aside. Gen Xers must now step -up ,take risks, and lead.
Gen Y offers us new ways of communication, a global view of the world, the green movement, and tech savvyness . They a have fresh ideas but they must learn to accept both positive and constructive feedback, over-time and even setbacks. Gen Y ers must step-up and do more than what is asked of them. Their entitlement attitude is hurting their brand!
Anna Quinlan may have stepped down from the back pages of Newsweek to make room for the younger Generations of writers but she did not stop! She is not hiding out in her basement or sitting on the back porch rocker. Anna is on the radio, writing books (newest book; Every Last One April 2010)and contributing more than ever. Stepping aside to let younger generations lead, gives us boomers a chance to contribute… just a little differently.