Baby Boomers – what is our Legacy?

I am currently living my refirement holidaying in a gorgeous town in South Wales called Ludlow.  We have travelled here with my 88 year old mother in law to give her the opportunity to catch up with many old friends she left behind when she and her husband moved to New Zealand over 15 years ago.  We had a wonderful day yesterday seeing Ludlow through her eyes and through all her memories of younger days and clearly a very active social life involved in all the activities of a small town in their retirement years.  One of her friends put on a lovely meal for us as they chatted happily about all the friends who were still around as well as remembering those that had now passed on.  These two friends had raised their children in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and along with many of their friends had chosen to return to the UK when they retired.  It occurred to me as I was listening to them how ironic it was that I was focused on retirement for baby boomers some thirty years younger than them and although they had a more definite date for retirement, their aspirations in their retirement years were very similar to ours.  Enjoying more time with each other, flexibility, freedom to immerse themselves in their hobbies, play their chosen sport, spend relaxed time with friends and family…bliss!  It also struck me how much the world has changed in their lifetime.. and how much they were keeping up with the technology – my mother in law spends much of her spare time on the computer managing her emails and keeping in touch with friends all around the world, while her friend uses texts to keep in touch with family and friends.  Their resilience and adaptability in their late eighties staggers and inspires me and I am reminded once again how important it is to keep active both physically and mentally and to embrace the world that the younger ones are creating for us.

I wonder what will the generation thirty years younger than us be saying when we are in our eighties?  What is our legacy and value and what can we pass on that will inspire and motivate those in the next generation. Much of our influence will come from the time we spend in the workplace.  Most of us don’t see ourselves retiring at the prescribed 65 years anymore.  Some will refire their working life long before then and others will continue working for themselves or others long after 65 years.  I was interested in a recent survey released by Leadership Management Australasia (LMA) on workplace research which published some concerning data regarding the cross generational attitude to baby boomers in the workplace throughout Australia and New Zealand.    Of concern, LMA concludes, is that large numbers in all generations don’t want to work with, or report to Baby Boomers in the future. And that includes Baby Boomers themselves.

“If you believe that Generation Y is the unsolvable challenge when it comes to managing a workforce, think again”, said LMA’s Executive Chairman, Grant Sexton. “Baby Boomers are now the challenge. While this research suggests a much more harmonious cross-generational landscape in Australian and New Zealand organisations than many would have us believe, especially with the younger generations, Baby Boomers are not in favour.”

“These findings cast a shadow over the relationship Baby Boomers have with other generations, “he said. “The Baby Boomer issue is a sleeper – an emerging and ongoing challenge for HR departments.  It threatens to undermine stability of the workforce into the future because Baby Boomers will continue to occupy most leadership and senior management positions in this decade.”

“The key to improvement appears to be heavily related to better cross-generational communication, supported by openness and sharing and for Gen-X and Gen-Y in particular, more planning and direction, LMA says. Managers need to identify the generations that exist within their workplace and explore what drives effective relationships with each generation, look for ways to bring generations closer and into a more harmonious space and keep a finger on the pulse of each generation”.

This research data does not disclose why baby boomers are so unpopular in the workplace, so we are left hanging a little.  However, it is clear that we are all going to have to communicate cross generationally for us to work together and live together for our mutual benefit.  I would hope that when we are in our late eighties, that the next generation will be happy to sit around the table with us and join in the celebration of our legacy.   Perhaps we need to reflect on our legacy as a generation and what will “stagger and inspire” our children in years to come?


About Patti Gwynne

Patti Gwynne is an ICF Credentialed Leadership and Executive Coach based in Auckland.

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