Chapter 2

Age versus Generation

It is well established that stereotyping in general is inappropriate in corporate America. Though it is common to discriminate based on race, gender, religion, and nationality, it is generally, not socially acceptable to do so. The exception is in stereotyping generations. In order to combat such stereotypes, we need first to be clear about what is really meant. Generational labels are created by the media and assigned according to the unique cultural environment in which its members were reared. Life-changing events and trends—such as wars, economic downturns, divorce rates, birth control, and even music styles—are thought to have uniquely and permanently marked each generation's members, qualitatively separating them from other generations. It becomes acceptable for gen-experts to lump members of a generation together because, as they say, these cultural events are a powerful force in homogenizing a group. This is how the gen-experts justify their assumptions about personalities and making predictions about behavior.

Age, on the other hand, is a chronological marker, a number. Though one can legitimately make assumptions about members of a certain age, these assumptions are usually based on biology or “life stage.” In our culture, age and life-stage descriptions carry much less baggage and are much less vulnerable to institutionalized stereotyping, perhaps because there are laws against it.

Age Discrimination

The first complaints of age discrimination, ...

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