Self-Reflection is often uncomfortable, but some of the best personal growth opportunities come from those not-great-feeling moments. My spouse is a Boomer-cusper, and many of our friends are in their 60's and 70's. We were sitting around a firepit recently trying to solve all the problems of the universe... as you do around a fire! Our friends are fascinated (and a little weirded out) that I've made a career out of workplace happiness, and they always have lots of questions for me... I love it!
After a couple of hours of philosophical wrangling, one of them paused for a long time
before wistfully saying, "You know, maybe we're the "ungrateful kids" we always complain about..."
The research on this topic isn't very robust. Indicators suggest that older people are actually (as a trend) more grateful than younger ones, but it's unclear how significant those differences are; when it comes to the workplace specifically, it may be less than more senior colleagues don't feel or express gratitude, but rather the fact that when it comes to appreciation, it's complicated. And there's a big difference between feeling grateful and expressing that to others!
While it's important to remember that individual experiences and behaviors can vary greatly, some factors might contribute to baby boomers being less likely to practice gratitude compared to other generations. Let's explore a few of them.
Upbringing and Cultural Norms: Baby boomers grew up during an era with different cultural norms and parenting and leadership styles. Expressing emotions like gratitude might not have been as encouraged or common during their formative years, making it less ingrained in their daily habits. For men especially, gratitude can sometimes feel like vulnerability, incurring a kind of debt of obligation to someone else.
Traditional Values: Baby boomers were raised with specific traditional values that prioritized stoicism and self-reliance. This emphasis on self-sufficiency might lead some to feel uncomfortable expressing gratitude or seeking support from others. In today's more collaborative work environments especially, this can create friction.
Life Challenges and Transitioning: As baby boomers age, they face unique life challenges, such as retirement, health issues, and losing loved ones. These transitions can be overwhelming, and practicing gratitude might become less of a priority during these times of change and adjustment. That's unfortunate since gratitude is a strong force for reconnecting with others and reframing complicated experiences to minimize the stress that results from many of these unavoidable situations.
Limited Exposure to Modern Gratitude Practices: Gratitude practices like journaling or mindfulness exercises have gained popularity in recent years. Baby boomers may have had less exposure to these practices compared to younger generations who grew up with more access to self-help resources and digital media. Also, many of the tools being offered for developing mindfulness or other personal habits are things like smartphone apps or other online tools which some folks may feel uncomfortable with or not trust that their private thoughts are being securely protected.
Communication Styles: Baby boomers might prefer different communication styles, including face-to-face interactions and phone calls, rather than social media or digital platforms where gratitude expressions are more common in younger generations.
Time Constraints: Baby boomers might be juggling various responsibilities, including caregiving for aging parents or grandchildren. These time commitments may leave them with less time and mental space to engage in gratitude practices.
Perceptions of Gratitude: Some baby boomers may perceive gratitude practices as overly sentimental or unnecessary. They might view expressing gratitude as a private matter and not feel the need to share it publicly or through social media.
It's important to note that these factors are not definitive and do not apply to every baby boomer. Many baby boomers do practice gratitude and embrace its benefits fully. Additionally, societal attitudes and practices are constantly evolving, and there is increasing recognition of the importance of gratitude across all generations. Encouraging gratitude and its benefits can be a positive step towards promoting well-being for people of all ages, including baby boomers.