Article: Boomers’ Exclaim: “Are We Irresponsible?!”

Dr. Joseph Wong
Principal Consultant | Apex Insitute

526 respondents were asked to pick three phrases out of ten to describe each generation in Hong Kong, the result was discussed in my previous post. Something interesting is revealed when we list the descriptions of Baby Boomers picked by different generations in descending order of the number of votes for each phrase as follows.

Baby Boomers describe themselves as hard-working, responsible and practical. Although all other generations agree that the Boomers are hard-working and practical, the Gen Y and Gen Z do not find the Boomers as responsible as they think of themselves. On the other hand, they also think that the Boomers are more obedient than how they perceive themselves to be.
As you can expect, the Boomers exclaimed, “are we irresponsible?!”. To understand the reasons behind this gap of perception, we have conducted survey with ten focus groups and interviewed 41 people of different generations, listened to their perspectives and facilitated dialogues between different generations.

The senior generations consider themselves responsible persons as they have established good practices for the younger generations to follow so that they don’t need to learn the hard way, and consistent performance can be ensured.

On the other hand, while acknowledging that the older generations are hard-working, the younger generations find the older generations complacent and sticking to their old success formula which may not be valid in today’s environment. The younger generations think that the older generations have not taken the responsibility to understand the new environment and challenges faced by the younger generations today and keep the practices updated. They are also risk averse and reluctant to let the younger generations to learn through trial and error, apply creativity and develop their own effective practices to release their potential.

Through the interviews and focus groups consisting of different generations, the older and younger generations had meaning dialogues and gained a better understanding of each other. They came to a conclusion that different generations really had different values and practices, but the differences were not so big as they had perceived and there were good reasons behind the differences.
In the next post, I will discuss how the upbringing and early working experiences of different generations shaped their values and practices, the understanding of which will surely foster better understanding and hence better collaboration between different generations.

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