The Generations: A Glossary
Wondering about all the names for different generations? Here’s the scoop!
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
Where’d that name come from? As soon as the Second World War ended, the birth rate jumped. In the US, a baby was born every seven seconds for nearly 20 years. Hence, the baby “boom.”
Strengths: Face-to-face communication. Idealism. Competitiveness. Loyalty.
Leadership Style: Tend to lead with authority and to respect the org chart—up to a point. These days, Boomers are increasingly collaborative.
The Secret Sauce: Looking for ways to get Boomers on board with your ideas? Try, “It’s the right thing to do.”
Words that Catch the Boomer Ear: Use these words to persuade, influence and motivate Boomers: unique, exclusive, exceptional, personal potential, cutting edge, progress, individual.
Tagline: “Wait, I AM the man.”
Biggest Techno Pet Peeve: Young generations who never answer the phone.
Learn more about Boomers.
3 Words that Convince Boomers to Say Yes.
Making Mentors of Reluctant Boomers
So Where’s the Wisdom?
Why Your Boss is Younger Than You
Kudos to Kim Lear of Inlay Insights for this one. Boomers who act like hipsters are Boomsters. Check your nearest coffee house.
Short for generational intelligence, Gen IQ is the ability to spot generational patterns and to ask genuinely curious questions about those patterns until you hit a “flip moment” when you simply "get" the way another generation thinks. Next thing you know, you’re designing strategies that bridge gen gaps. Ultimately, Gen IQ is the ability to get more done and find success by leveraging your understanding of the generations around you.
Gen X (born 1965 – 1980)
Where’d that name come from? The first mention of Generation X as a group was during the 1950s, but the book that gave Gen X its name was a 1991 novel by Canadian author Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. In the novel, young people sought purpose and community in an unraveling society. Also, worth a mention for helping this “unknown factor” generation get its name is Generation X, the band. An English pop punk/post-punk group from London in the late 1970s, Generation X was the musical starting point for lead singer Billy Idol.
Strengths: Efficiency. Independence. Directness. Skepticism.
Leadership Style: Tend to lead with competence and data.
The Secret Sauce: Looking for ways to get Gen X on board with your ideas? Try, “This works. It gets results.”
Words that Catch the Gen X Ear: Use these words to persuade, influence and motivate Gen X: balance, choices, self-reliance, independent, efficient, maverick, objective, data, results, measurable.
Tagline: Just do it!
Biggest Techno Pet Peeve: Boomers who respond to email with a phone call or a drop-by.
Learn more about Gen X.
Don’t Panic. That’s Just the Death Rattle of a Boomer-Controlled Congress. What to Expect from Gen X and Millennial Lawmakers.
Gen X Execs: Are You The New Black?
Generation X and Feedback: New Research
Dinks, Sleep and the American Dream: Gen X Finds Balance.
See Millennials. “Gen Y” was a placeholder name for the generation after Gen X. Once they grew up, they were called Millennials, so Y is no more (except maybe on MySpace).
Gen Z (born 1998 – 2018)
Where’d that name come from? “Gen Z” is probably just a placeholder (and a lazy way to follow Gen X and Gen Y) until this group gets a little older and earns a solid. In the meantime, lots of names are in the running: iGen, Founders, Globals, Gen Edge, Gen Alpha, and Homelanders, just to name a few.
Strengths: Resourcefulness. Speed. Hard work. DIY values. Fiscal caution.
Leadership Style: We’re waiting to see, but Zs are likely to respect authority and to lead with respect, too. We’re already seeing signs of civility and politeness.
The Secret Sauce: Looking for ways to get Gen Z on board with your ideas? Try, “Let’s fix this.”
Words that Catch the Gen Z Ear: Use these words to persuade, influence and motivate Gen Z: Build, hack, resilience, realism, hands-on, harmony, invent and maker (as in the movement).
Biggest Techno Fear: Eye contact (insert fear emoji here)
Learn more about Gen Z.
Whacha Gonna Call Gen Z?
Gen Z and Politics
Gen Z May Drive You Cray Cray. Here’s Why.
Generation Jones is basically the 2nd half or second wave of the Baby Boomer generation, born approximately from 1955 to 1964. The name has several connotations, including a large anonymous generation, and a group that has been “jonesing” (craving) for the more prosperous days, economic growth and plentiful jobs that first-wave Boomers encountered.
In 1998 journalist Tom Brokaw wrote a book called The Greatest Generation, which profiled people who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. The name stuck. In generational studies, they are generally called the G.I. Generation.
iGen, GenEdge, Homelanders, Globals, Gen Alpha
See Gen Z. These names are all in the running as final names for people born after 9/11.
Millennials (born 1980 – 1998)
Where’d that name come from? These digital natives were in their most formative years right around the big year 2000 celebrations and the Y2K madness. As teens and young adults, they ushered in the new millennium.
Strengths: Collaboration. Innovation. Speed.
Leadership Style: Tend to lead with influence and conversation
The Secret Sauce: Looking for ways to get Millennials on board with your ideas? Try, “Let’s do this together.”
Words that Catch the Millennial Ear: Use these words to persuade, influence and motivate Millennials: purpose, impact, innovate, input, co-create, tribe, community, epic.
Tagline: There is no “I” in team.
Biggest Techno Fear: Phone calls
Learn more about Millennials.
Goodbye Trophy Kids. Hello Workaholics.
Managing with Generational Intelligence
Katniss and Harry: What Makes a Millennial Hero?
Millennial Phone Phobia
Millennials who are now parents. Roughly 1 in 4 Millennials is a parent.
While First Wave Milennials started carers when the economy was basically booming, the 2nd half of the Millennial generation, Recessionists, entered the workplace during the bank crisis and Great Recession of 2008. Many found themselves with high student debt, without jobs and (it wasn't a joke) sleeping on their parents’ couches. Having put off home ownership, marriage and kids because they can't afford it, Recessionsts have become realistic and financially conservative. Also, pretty skeptical. When they learned that Pluto isn't even a planet, that was pretty much it for civic trust.
Tagline: Not entitled. You?
Silent Generation (born 1925-1945)
Where’d that name come from? Born after the G.I. Generation and before the Baby Boomers, Silents tended to focus on their careers rather than on activism, and were largely encouraged to conform with social norms. As young adults during the McCarthy Era, many members of the Silent Generation felt it was dangerous to speak out. That led Time magazine to describe them as a "Silent Generation" in 1951.
Strengths: Loyalty. Fiscal responsibility. Organization. Duty.
Leadership Style: Tend to lead with authority.
The Secret Sauce: Looking for ways to get Silents on board with your ideas? Try, “We can make this better.”
Words that Catch the Silent Ear: Use these words to persuade, influence and motivate Silents: value, loyalty, duty, quality, craftsmanship, savings, responsibility, legacy.
A micro-generation born between 1977 and 1985 on the cusp between Gen X and Millennials. Outstanding “digital adaptors” Xennials grew up in an analog world, but had a digital youth. They can write cursive and code, too. Some Millennials identify as Xennials simply to escape bad Millennial press. I think that's OK; Xennials should let them in for humanitarian reasons.