When my grandfather started his small appliance business, Electra-craft, his ambition for the company was to build it into something he could pass down to his sons. It would be, he thought, a family business that would last for generations. Well, poor Milton had three daughters, and his Baby Boomer sons-in-law had bigger dreams than running an appliance business. My brothers, his Generation X
grandsons, worked summers with him, but irons and toasters were no match for Atari and the Cure when it came to holding their interest. Poor Grandpa Milt eventually had to sell Electra-craft. What happened to the job loyalty his generation exhibited?
The Silent Generation (Born Between 1925 and 1945)
Men of my grandfather’s generation (called the Silent Generation, in contrast with the people of the Roaring Twenties) lived through at least one of the World Wars and the Great Depression. They were grateful to be employed at all and worked hard to keep their jobs, no matter what they were. They respected the lesson of the industrial age in which they were raised, which prized the assembly line’s ability to manufacture goods using interchangeable parts. That kind of system required a strict hierarchy of command and control, and a pyramid structure of leadership in which those at the top made all the decisions and those at the bottom did as they were told.
My grandfather and his peers valued loyalty to the organization above all things, so their first priority was the company for which they worked; it always came first, even before family. Those guys (because they were mostly guys) had a unspoken agreement with their employers that if they served faithfully, did what they were told, and didn’t question orders or complain, they would get job security, promotions based on longevity, and eventually a fat pension in return for their dedication.
Baby Boomers (Born Between 1946 and 1964)
The Baby Boomers, my mother’s and father’s generation, also value loyalty, but not as much as the Silent Generation. They were kids during the post–World War II era of optimism, opportunity, and progress, so when they entered the workforce in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, they were after something different than their Depression-era parents had been. Baby Boomers give their all to their jobs, too, but they do it because they’re seeking personal fulfillment. While the Silents were concerned with just getting by, the Baby Boomers really believe that by standing up for themselves, they can have it all. They challenged authority, crusaded for causes, and demanded their piece of the American Dream.
Generation X (Born Between 1965 and 1980)