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Don’t laugh: boomers still rule the world – for now

By January 14, 2024No Comments

(This column originally appeared in The Guardian)


I still pay for cable TV, print out plane tickets, read the newspaper and watch Jeopardy. Yes, I like wallpaper in a bathroom and shag carpet in a bedroom. Yes, I use emojis too much. I leave too many voicemails. I know these are the things that boomers do and I know that younger people find them hilarious. Please don’t ridicule me, it’ll be your turn one day.

Technically, I’m not a boomer. I was born in 1965, one year past the official deadline. But if he talks like a boomer, texts like a boomer and puts Thousand Island dressing on his salad, he’s a boomer.

It’s difficult to name a time in modern industrial society when four generations of workers share the same workplace: millennials, gen Z-ers, boomers and gen X-ers, all of whom have very different experiences and attitudes to life – and work.

At work, I do the things that only boomers do, often infuriating those younger than me. I write notes in a notebook instead of a note-taking app and I keep a manual calendar. I make phone calls instead of sending emails. I leave my office and meet with clients and prospects face to face instead of online.

I’m also a big proponent of working at least three days a week in an actual office and I don’t think that Mondays and Fridays should be automatic work-from-home days. I bristle when I hear about “quiet quitters” and “coffee badgers” – who pop into the office to make an appearance and then disappear – because I feel this type of behavior is baffling not only to a business owner like myself but to anyone who wants to get ahead in the world and make a good living.

Like most boomers, I have a difficult time differentiating between legitimate mental health issues and making excuses. I have to do a better job at understanding different points of view. I have to realize that when I try to act younger, I’m just looking older and that younger people are ridiculing me for that too.

And they are. Just go online and you’ll find countless comments like “old people love talking about when there were only three channels” and that boomers “love giving financial advice” and “think everyone else is overly sensitive”. Fair.

My generation is constantly being ridiculed. Much of it’s deserved. But to my younger friends I have a word of warning: boomers are still very much running the world.

The ad world and media in general love to think that small business is full of beautiful, diverse people in their 20s and 30s running sustainable, innovative, pioneering and admirable coffee shops, craft bourbon distilleries and vertical farms.

But the reality – according to data from the US government – is that more than half (54%) of the businesses in this country are owned by people over the age of 50 – 4% are 70 or older. And the management of most major corporations is still mostly male and white. They’re boomers. And no one likes to admit that.

This, of course, is changing and that is a great thing. There will be more diversity. We will see more Black and brown and female faces running businesses. Wealth will transfer. Someday in the not-too-distant future, the millennials and gen-Z generations will take their rightful place to represent the majority of corporate leaders and business owners.

And then, rest assured, younger generations will ridicule them too.

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