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The Generational Fear Factor and a Simple Way to Overcome It

Failure. Being overlooked. Change. Three fears held by different generations damage and often lead to inaccurate stereotypes. There’s an easy way for all of us to come together, break some stereotypes, and help each other work through our fears.

Most of us have either experienced or learned that generational differences exist, but did you know that there are also generational fears? It’s not fear of spiders, heights, or small spaces.

What fears does each generation hold and what stereotypes are created from those fears?

Baby Boomers fear change. For 34 years Boomers were the majority in the workforce. That means that virtually every industry, with the exception of technology, was ruled by the generation that values conformity and Industrial Era management practices. That all changed in 2015 when Millennials became the majority and brought their Post-Industrial Era technology, casual dress demands, and pursuit of happiness. Few people actually like change and Boomers are being asked to accept a whole lot of it in a very short period of time. Do you know that our bodies have a physiological response to too much change in a short period of time? It maxes out our prefrontal cortex, creates fear and causes our amygdala to respond with the fight or flight response.

The fear of change leads to the perception that Boomers are stuck in their ways, unteachable and quickly becoming irrelevant.

Generation X, the Jan Brady of generations, fears being overlooked. Is it any wonder? Stuck between the older, and more beautiful Marcia (Baby Boomers clocking in at 78 Million strong) and the cute and perky Millennials (80 Million), Gen Xers are growing bitter with the lack of room for them in at this generational table. It would be wise for us to make some space because while this grown-up “slacker” generation is smaller in size (46 Million) it could be a very strong ally in this generational conflict. They have a foot in both eras and could be the bridge that saves us all.

The fear of being overlooked leads to the perception that Generation X is too cynical and busy complaining to contribute.

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Millennials fear failure. They don’t fear it because they are incapable of failing, but because they’ve never had to face it and it can be a shock to the system. It’s like the first exposure to the sun, if you aren’t prepared, most people will get sunburned. As the trophy kids of helicopter parents, Gen Y is having their first exposure to failure as adults, and it’s scary.

The fear of failure leads to the perception that Millennials are flighty, and not worth investing in.

So what’s the secret to overcoming generational fears and breaking through stereotypes? It’s one word: COLLABORATION.

It is the act of working with someone to produce or create something. I’m going to give it an “overcoming generational differences twist,” and say it’s the action of working with someone of a different generation to produce or create something. It turns out that the antidote to our generational fears is found in community with, and being supported by, others.

We are living in an era of change which has produced fear and conflict. It is a challenge to be successful in the 21st century workforce with a multi-generational team, but it is also a unique opportunity. For the first time in history, each generation has something to learn and teach. What a time to be alive!

This is an opportunity for the different generations to work together, break some stereotypes and help each other overcome our fears.

Sadly, I can’t do anything about your fear of clowns. You’re on your own for that one.

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