OK, Boomer. Why are you scared?

Baby Boomers are the economic powerhouse in the US today, controlling over 70% of disposable income and running and managing the largest companies. However, are Boomers listening to the next generations to keep their businesses relevant and ensuring they have a future? Perhaps not… 

Creating blogs and posting them to social media is one of the services we offer our clients. Like any good agency we want to write interesting, thought provoking content that’s engaging and relevant to the target audience. 

Recently we misjudged our audience and received an unintended backlash. Our client was (and thankfully, still is) a cooperative of small businesses serving other small businesses across America with essential needs to help their companies operate. 

With sustainability being such a pressing topic, we decided to write something about the impact Greta Thunberg is having on energizing people, especially younger people, to take action on climate change. Love her or not it’s very impressive that a single person can become so influential in such a short time period. 

We proposed the piece, it was approved by the client, we published and then…well, unintended consequences.  

“…express my dissatisfaction with your inclusion of a blog about Greta Thunberg…I feel offended that any space was given to this young lady at all…leave out the overt political commentary.” 

All of this got me thinking. We know these comments were coming from Gen X and Boomers. Was it just middle America? I checked my Facebook feed and saw various posts from people around my age (56) making fun of younger people’s views on the world today. These posts were coming from all over the world from a politically diverse group. 

The essence of the commentary was that ‘in my day’ we had milk delivered in bottles, we shopped locally etc. It appears that Boomers are trying to say that today’s teenagers re-engineered the dairy supply chain to replace glass with plastic and eradicate doorstop milk deliveries. I’m just throwing this out there but I’m suggesting it was us Boomers that made all the changes that Gen Z’s are complaining about. 

So, are Boomers in denial that climate change is happening? Some are, we know that, but most aren’t. Are we feeling guilty, or embarrassed about what we’ve done to the environment? If not, we should be. To defend our indefensible position, we’re lashing out, fighting back, even mocking. All the behavioural characteristics of people who are scared. 

So, what is it Boomers are so scared of? We’re scared of being exposed as the generation that has caused all these problems, or at least not putting a stop to them. We’re scared of our children and grandchildren calling us out and saying, “Why did you let this happen?” 

Whether that’s true or not (and I think it is) then there’s a lesson here for business leaders. If we want to truly embrace the younger generation, we need to embrace their anger and listen – I mean really listen – and change our businesses to be more palatable to them. No BS, just a genuine desire to change and change for the better.