Smashing Generational Stereotypes

Stereotype. The villainous word that we, as generational junkies, are constantly fighting to exterminate, as well as all its negative effects.

The angle for all BridgeWorks research is a cross-generational, multi-perspective lens to help dismiss harmful stereotypes and embrace the diverse strengths that each generation brings to the table. Pollyanna? Why, yes. But helpful and constructive? We think so. And let’s face it - stereotypes are just nasty, clingy burrs that can be tough to shake from the fabric of our society, and though we're doing our best to pick them out, with each new generation comes a new flood of dismissive and demeaning labels.

In order to be best equipped to slay these destructive stereotypes, it's important to have a pulse on the most pervasive of them. So we were curious, over at BridgeWorks HQ, what sorts of results a generational Google search would reveal. Are the same generational stereotypes still out there? Have we added some new ones into the mix, or even embraced some positive versions (gasp!)? Or better yet, have we, as a society, moved beyond harmful stereotypes to embrace a more open and balanced discussion about generational dynamics? We ran a quick test via Google’s autocomplete, and sadly, the results were far from shocking.

What exactly were they? Here goes...

Millennials are lazy, narcissistic, and screwed. Image

Gen X? Well, slackers of course. Image

Baby Boomers are not only the worst, but they're also spoiled. Image

And Gen Z. Poor Gen Z (which BridgeWorks is calling Gen Edge), the eldest of which haven’t even graduated from high school yet, is not spared the pigeonholing, already deemed as screwed with issues and of course, an old favorite, lazy. Image

We’ll be the first to admit that sure, sometimes stereotypes can stem from a very distant grain of truth and yes, we’ve heard all about the entitled Millennial who shows up for work at 10 am and mumbles some excuse about traffic before taking a sip of the Starbucks frap in his hand. But for the most part, stereotypes are narrow, unproductive, and grossly distorted. The Oxford English Dictionary defines stereotype as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” If you have this fixed idea that all Millennials are lazy, tech-obsessed, spoiled brats then you’re creating an active barrier that’s preventing you from tapping into all the strengths they can bring to the table.

Now, we know that Google autocomplete isn’t necessarily the best litmus test - it's certainly famed for it's less than positive results. Because of the anonymity it provides, it’s a safe place to ask the kinds of questions that you might not voice aloud. But despite this, perhaps even because of this, it reaffirms the importance of the cross-generational approach that we promote. Nothing good will come of promoting stereotypes. Simply put, they're the quickest way to burn communication bridges, stunt interpersonal growth, and poison team dynamics.

Clearly, there’s a lot of work left to be done on this front, and we’ll continue the uphill battle to dethrone these autocomplete entries so that one day maybe we’ll even see some positive entries in good old Google's autocomplete. Wouldn't that be smashing?