Four generational myths that can hurt client relationships

08.02.18

One of the biggest obstacles to peaceful, cohesive cross-generational relationships is the presence of generational stereotypes. Misinformation evolves into stereotypes which spiral into myths — and all of this is exacerbated by the extensive reach of social media and the internet. While it may seem like Millennials bear the brunt of today’s generational stereotypes, the reality is negativity afflicts each generation. To improve your generational understanding and foster more effective cross-generational relations with your clients, don’t fall prey to these common myths.

Baby Boomers are resistant to change

Scorned and stereotyped by Traditionalists, Boomers were once the disruptive newbies. Now they lead their families, communities and companies with wisdom and experience. However, the tables have turned — a recent study shows 51% of Millennials believe Baby Boomers have made things worse for their generation, indicating a deep divide exists between Boomers and the “newbies,” Millennials.1 The great Boomer-Millennial rivalry hosts dozens of stereotypes, but one of the stronger myths — and one that’s pretty far from the truth — is that Boomers are resistant to change. In the ’60s and ’70s, Boomers protested the Vietnam War and rallied for women’s, civil and gay rights. They are a large generation of activists who successfully effected change through their collective efforts. They pushed back on the status quo established by Traditionalist authority figures and continue to wield a spirit for change into their retirement years.

What can you do as an advisor?

When advising Boomers, don’t make the mistake of assuming they’re stuck in their ways or resistant to change. Show them innovations in your practice that will benefit them and keep them ahead of the curve while demonstrating respect for how they already do things.

Generation Xers are harsh

Over the years, Gen Xers have shown a strong work ethic and a drive for efficiency, but no generation is without stereotypes. When Xers came of age, they developed a reputation for being apathetic slackers. Now, however, the average C-suite age is 54 — right on the cusp of Xer years.2 Xers are ascending the corporate ladder, and along the way, they’ve developed a reputation for being abrasive. While this stereotype may have started in the workplace, the perception has spread. In most environments, the direct communication style of this generation can be misconstrued as being harsh, especially with Millennials. They can give tough feedback and might seem like they’re giving the cold shoulder because they gravitate towards independence. In reality, they speak honestly and directly because they value transparency.

What can you do as an advisor?

When working with Xer clients, anticipate their communication style. Rather than be put off by it, listen to what they’re saying and work toward a solution. What’s often misinterpreted as being mean is just a preference for efficient communication.

Millennials are lazy

The perception that Millennials are lazy is one of the most prevalent generational myths today. There are a few statistics that might dismiss this common misconception. One study, in particular, found 59% of Millennials say competition is “what gets them up in the morning,” more than the traditionally competitive Boomers.3 On another front, 43% of work martyrs are Millennials and 42% of these martyrs admit to shaming their coworkers for taking vacations — both stats outpace those for other generations.4 Again and again, surveys negate the stereotype of the “lazy Millennial” and instead point to a generation that might be well-described as “work-obsessed.”

What can you do as an advisor?

When advising Millennial clients, you’ll want to compliment the hard work they’ve put into their careers and building their wealth. Just make sure to do this in a way that is authentic and natural.

Generation Edgers have an eight-second attention span

Generation Edge, the youngest generation, is beginning to garner media attention as to how they’ll behave as consumers and in the workforce. A myth that’s flourished in light of the brief nature of Vine, Snapchat and Instagram is they have the attention span of a gnat. A more accurate description would be they have an eight-second filter. It’s not that they’re incapable of focusing on something; they’re selective about what they do devote their time to. With unlimited access to information and nonstop streams of content thrown at them daily, Edgers reserve their limited time for topics that immediately engage and genuinely interest them.

What can you do as an advisor?

Sooner than you think, fresh Edger graduates will begin trickling into your office. When serving these Gen Edgers, provide your value proposition and get to the point quickly, much like you would with Gen X clients. Once you’ve established yourself as an expert worthy of their time, you’ll capture their attention for much, much longer than the presumed eight seconds.

1LeVine, S. (2018, April 25). Millennials blame boomers for ruining their lives. Axios/SurveyMonkey Poll.

2Korn Ferry. (2017, Feb. 14). Age and Tenure in the C-Suite: Korn Ferry Institute Study Reveals Trends by Title and Industry.

3CEB Corporate Leadership Council. (2014). The Millennial Myth, Three Strategies for Effectively Managing Millennials in the Workforce.

4Project: Time Off. (2016). The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale. How the Millennial Experience Will Define America’s Vacation Culture. Retrieved from Project Time Off.

This information is prepared by an unrelated independent third party, BridgeWorks, and is provided for informational purposes only. Ivy Distributors, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.