The How and Y of the Generation Gap

May, 2007

“Mom, look at Lindsey’s highlights. Your hair would be really nice if you got highlights like hers,” my 14-year-old daughter told me recently, motioning at her friend. What’s wrong with my “natural white-lights?” I wondered aloud. “They make you look old,” my teenager said matter of factly.

It’s hard to accept that folks who aren’t even as young as my daughter may view me as a dinosaur, but it’s a fact of life in the workplace today. I let out a rueful chuckle as I read Senior Editor Cathy S. Cruz’s cover story about the new rules for working with Gen Y (those born after 1977 and most of whom are the children of the Baby Boomers). Apparently, at one local accounting firm, they joke that you are a dinosaur if you are over 40.

The workplace will eventually hold many more Gen Yers (also known as Echo Boomers) than there are Baby Boomers, such as myself. So all of the other generations had best learn how to deal with the members of this boomlet, some of whom, as in my case, we are still rearing.

Cathy gives us some helpful ways of doing this in “Gen Y.” Gen Yers are technologically and globally aware and desire feedback. They will likely change jobs many times and will try to leave the office by 5 p.m. everyday. They are also going to be the backbone of our economy for the next few decades.

So it’s important to engage Gen Y in the forward-looking questions of the day, such as what we want our state to be like 50 years from now. In fact, it’s important that everyone have input into this answer, not matter what his or her generation.

Here at Hawaii Business, we’re trying to provide that opportunity for Hawaii’s business community through our partnership with the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs in the Hawaii Business 2050 Forums on Sustainability. These forums can be viewed here on our site, and will be aired statewide on public access stations. More importantly, members of the business community can weigh in on what they think sustainability should look like by filling out a survey to be used by the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force. Please make your voice heard and make it count. It’s important to present and future generations.

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Kelli Abe Trifonovitch