The Traditional Generation [Born 1922–1945]
The Traditional Generation—also known as Veterans, the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation—comprises employees and retirees born between 1922 and 1943 who are continuing to lead and/or contribute to organizations or are re-entering the workforce. These older Americans hold three-quarters of the nation’s wealth and are the executive leaders of some of the most established and influential companies in America.
This group not only survived the Great Depression of the 1930s but was instrumental in shaping the United States as an economic and military power. Patriotism, teamwork, “doing more with less” and a task-orientation very much define this generation. Rules of conduct, respect for authority and following directions are all very important touch points for this generation. Employees of the Traditional Generation are the keepers of the organization’s past and founding goals and beliefs. They are your organization’s historians.
Most organizations have as their president of the board of directors a member of the Traditional Generation, who sets the tone of the culture and is ultimately responsible for the strategic direction of the business.
The Traditional Generation boasted the first true innovators. They are responsible for developing today’s space program, creating vaccines for many diseases including polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and whooping cough and laying the foundation for today’s technological environment. They moved families from farms and cities to a new kind of community—suburbia. This generation was the first to pursue equality through the Civil Rights Movement.
Characteristics of Traditional Generation workers
- Believe in conformity, authority and rules
- Believe in logic
- Very defined sense of right and wrong
- Loyalty and respect for authority
- View an understanding of history as a way to plan for the future
- Dislike conflict
- Detail oriented
- Consistency and uniformity
- Seek out technological advancements
- Command-and-control leadership reminiscent of military operations
- Prefer hierarchical organizational structures and will continue to view horizontal structure in a hierarchical way
Ethnic and cultural issues/implications
The Traditional Generation at work is predominately a homogeneous population of white males. Although women make up the largest number within the population as a whole, men have higher employment rates. This is consistent with the values of the generation in which women remained at home to care for the family, generally only entering the workforce to support the nation or families during times of crisis such as WWII. This generation saw women enter the workforce and was confronted with issues of racial and sexual equality at work and in their communities.
Generational perspectives of the EAP
The Traditional Generation first experienced the EAP as an occupational alcoholism program and may not be aware of or comfortable pursuing the broad spectrum of employee assistance services now available. We know that older workers are less likely to seek the services of the EAP. This generation has made tremendous accomplishments by forging ahead during times of trouble and, therefore, is likely to feel obliged to handle any personal concerns alone.
Common EAP issues
- Long-term care
- Managing income and expenses
Whereas retirement once was a time of passiveness, today, it is a time of growth and adventure made possible by the opportunity to explore interests that could not be developed with commitments to work and family. Retirement is a transitional time for Traditional Generation employees, who are beginning to identify themselves not in relation to their occupational role but by their personal interests and social relationships.
The implied contract between workers of this generation and the company that would support them for life is eroding, and older workers and retirees find they need to increase their income or make sometimes difficult decisions on how to spend their money. Ensuring long-term care arrangements and maintaining a delicate balance of eligibility for federal aid present other significant financial concerns for this group. With many organizations terminating retirement benefits in an effort to contain expenses, many older workers and retirees find they must remain in or return to the workplace to earn income, maintain affordable health care coverage and cover gaps created by inflation and reductions in federal benefits and private pension or retirement funds.
- Estate planning, wills and trusts
- Health care proxy and living wills
Typically, the legal issues of this generation have been addressed in the form of wills and other estate plans. Living wills and health care proxies become increasingly important as this generation ages. Legal services for this group of employees typically involve updates to existing legal documents and the management of estate issues.
- Marital/family relationships
Relationships outside of work are becoming more prominent and important. As employees of this generation leave the workforce, it is important to help individuals and couples define their new relationships. This is especially true for men who may have had few at-home responsibilities and find themselves bored or “in the way,” and in some instances resentful of the interests and community involvement of their previously stay-at-home spouses. For some couples, redefining their relationship with one another becomes critically important. Friendships that were left to fade due to the pressures of work and family are missed, and employees of this generation may need assistance in identifying new relationships and interests.
- Chronic disease
- Diseases of aging
Chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease are common in this age group. Treatment compliance may be dependent upon the ability to afford medications. Illness, treatment or the side effects of treatment may keep this group of employees out of work for a few days or for a period of time. Signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and illness related to smoking or alcoholism may begin to appear or are progressing.
Mental health issues
ValueOptions’ behavioral health care utilization statistics suggests that this stoic generation is least likely to seek mental health services. For this generation depression is an embarrassment and should be addressed quietly, alone and out of the public eye. Losses related to death, illness and changes in work identity might compound existing behavioral disorders. Rates of suicide increase among older people.
Reducing the stigma of mental illness and facilitating linkages with mental health professionals are critical for this generation. Given this generation’s respect for authority, the manager’s role in referring to the EAP is extremely important.
Substance abuse issues
Long-term alcohol abuse will have affected an employee’s physical health, and the employee may no longer be a functioning member of the workforce. Misuse of alcohol may become more pronounced to reduce the stress of unmanaged mental health issues or as a strategy to avoid uncomfortable relationships.