Generational chauvinism is rampant today. Many if not most people regard their generation as superior to all others. They presume themselves more enlightened than other generations.
Such an attitude is antithetical to service and leadership. It’s omnipresent, protean, potentially lethal, a manifestation of that most durable of sins: pride.
Generation Chauvinism in our Midst
Aspects of generational chauvinism include:
—In the workplace, many people overlook the capacities of individuals, evaluating them primarily or solely on the basis of their age. It’s a commonplace that young people tend to be marked by energy and innovation. Older people add value based on their judgment and experience. True enough. Nonetheless, some younger people have spectacular judgment and vision. Some older people are notably creative and daring and adaptive. To miss individual potential is to leave great value on the table.
—Generational analysis can be very useful in comprehending broad trends. There is much to be learned from studying aspects shared among first- and second-wave Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and so on. But individuals may break molds. They may share aspects of various cohorts. To dismiss all Millennials as entitled, all Boomers as self-regarding, makes no sense. On the other hand, cultivating empathy with those who came of age at different times can yield new perspectives and create untold value.
—Generational chauvinism runs riot amid the contemporary trend toward ignorance of history. In 1990 the noted biographer William Manchester called out those attempting to marginalize the literary contributions of H.L. Mencken. To apply today’s standards and fashions to prior generations, absent qualification and outside of context, is a fool’s errand. Such pride closes people off from the experiences of others who were navigating in uncertain waters, just as we are today.
Each Generation Holds Lessons
Each generation has something to teach—and something to learn—from other generations.
This has always been true. Transcendent leaders in various fields constantly learned from other generations, from history, as well as from those in their midst.
Generational chauvinism is all the more hard to excuse in a time when the potential for collaboration is reaching new heights.
It might be said that one of the greatest underutilized opportunities for value creation is collaboration between various generations.
What About You?
Do you see generational chauvinism in your midst?
Do people seek to limit your contribution based on assumptions arising from your age?
Do you have traces of generational chauvinism in your own mind and heart?
What can you do to overcome generational chauvinism–including your own?
Beware Generational Chauvinism