Question: I am a full-time working woman in my early 70s, with gray hair and a rather robust figure. I feel that my young female office mates in their 30s and 40s are somewhat patronizing. When I wear something they consider fashionable, they make a big fuss – too big a fuss. I also feel excluded from their “chatter” although they are polite. I’ve been at my job 20 years; they are the newcomers. We just are different and they don’t get it. How do I get comfortable with this?

Answer: It sounds as though you are caught in a generational gap with some cliquish office mates. Feeling disturbed about being an outsider when you are the one with the tenure makes sense.

Much has been written about the generations and how they work or don’t work together. Distinctive characteristics have been used to describe the generations as a result of the social, political, economic and cultural milieu that occurred during their growing-up years.

Let’s begin with your generation, those born between 1925 and 1942.

This generation has been called the Traditionalist or Silent generation. They lived during the Great Depression and World War II in their youth. They typically conform to standards of the day and are considered the most compliant of all generations. They respect authority and adhere to discipline, rules and regulations.

It’s a generation of people who work or have worked hard and perform their duties before having fun. To them, work is an obligation where experience is respected.

The co-workers you mentioned are from Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their classic book “Generations” (HarperCollins, 1992), write that as children, the Gen Xers sensed adults were not in control of themselves or their country – from the “Vietnam hysteria to Nixon’s Christmas without lights to Three Mile Island.”

Gen Xers typically are self-reliant, skeptical and want structure and direction. For them, work is a contract. They challenge others and often question “Why?” They are entrepreneurial, value freedom and want constant feedback.

Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, authors of “When Generations Collide” (HarperCollins, 2002), identify clash points between these two generations:

Job changing: Traditionalists consider job changing a stigma – you only change jobs if you can’t succeed in your present job. Leaving often is a sign of failure.

Gen Xers view job change as a necessity for advancement. Labeled “job-hoppers,” they consider change a strategic imperative. Their goal is to get as many skills for their resumes so their next potential employers will view them as desirable candidates.

Feedback: Traditionalists assume that no news is good news. They value authority and discipline. As the strong and silent type, they are short on praise and on words. When they have something to say, it is best to pay attention.

Gen Xers want to know how they are doing now. Based on a survey by Lancaster and Stillman, 90 percent of Gen X respondents wanted feedback immediately or within a few days after completing a project.

Technology may play a role, since Gen Xers grew up online, with the ability to communicate instantly; not the case with Traditionalists.

Training: Many Traditionalists attended the school of hard knocks until they mastered the tasks. The assumption “I learned the hard way and so can you” summarizes their approach to training. They don’t tolerate whiners and often believe younger employees are spoiled.

Gen Xers feel they need to constantly learn new skills to increase their value to their employers, and to potential new employers if they lose their jobs. Some leave an organization if they feel they aren’t getting enough training.

A note of caution: Generational characteristics don’t always apply to everyone within the same generation. Also, those born at the end of one date range may have characteristics that overlap with the preceding or succeeding generation.

Now, let’s discuss appearance. It counts.

Clothing choices depend on the work environment. And stylish means something different to each person. If you feel your wardrobe needs an update, talk to a fashion consultant, life coach or a sales associate at a department store that sells to working women.

Finally, consider having a chat with your co-workers about how you are feeling. Find some common ground for discussion. Be interested in them. You might ask to see photos of their children, pets or a recent vacation.

Hopefully, some of this information will add to your understanding of the inherent generational differences. It’s worth a try to bridge the gap. Good luck and best wishes.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.

Question: I am a full-time working woman in my early 70s, with gray hair and a rather robust figure. I feel that my young female office mates in their 30s and 40s are somewhat patronizing. When I wear something they consider fashionable, they make a big fuss – too big a fuss. I also feel excluded from their “chatter” although they are polite. I’ve been at my job 20 years; they are the newcomers. We just are different and they don’t get it. How do I get comfortable with this?

Answer: It sounds as though you are caught in a generational gap with some cliquish office mates. Feeling disturbed about being an outsider when you are the one with the tenure makes sense.

Much has been written about the generations and how they work or don’t work together. Distinctive characteristics have been used to describe the generations as a result of the social, political, economic and cultural milieu that occurred during their growing-up years.

Let’s begin with your generation, those born between 1925 and 1942.

This generation has been called the Traditionalist or Silent generation. They lived during the Great Depression and World War II in their youth. They typically conform to standards of the day and are considered the most compliant of all generations. They respect authority and adhere to discipline, rules and regulations.

It’s a generation of people who work or have worked hard and perform their duties before having fun. To them, work is an obligation where experience is respected.

The co-workers you mentioned are from Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their classic book “Generations” (HarperCollins, 1992), write that as children, the Gen Xers sensed adults were not in control of themselves or their country – from the “Vietnam hysteria to Nixon’s Christmas without lights to Three Mile Island.”

Gen Xers typically are self-reliant, skeptical and want structure and direction. For them, work is a contract. They challenge others and often question “Why?” They are entrepreneurial, value freedom and want constant feedback.

Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, authors of “When Generations Collide” (HarperCollins, 2002), identify clash points between these two generations:

Job changing: Traditionalists consider job changing a stigma – you only change jobs if you can’t succeed in your present job. Leaving often is a sign of failure.

Gen Xers view job change as a necessity for advancement. Labeled “job-hoppers,” they consider change a strategic imperative. Their goal is to get as many skills for their resumes so their next potential employers will view them as desirable candidates.

Feedback: Traditionalists assume that no news is good news. They value authority and discipline. As the strong and silent type, they are short on praise and on words. When they have something to say, it is best to pay attention.

Gen Xers want to know how they are doing now. Based on a survey by Lancaster and Stillman, 90 percent of Gen X respondents wanted feedback immediately or within a few days after completing a project.

Technology may play a role, since Gen Xers grew up online, with the ability to communicate instantly; not the case with Traditionalists.

Training: Many Traditionalists attended the school of hard knocks until they mastered the tasks. The assumption “I learned the hard way and so can you” summarizes their approach to training. They don’t tolerate whiners and often believe younger employees are spoiled.

Gen Xers feel they need to constantly learn new skills to increase their value to their employers, and to potential new employers if they lose their jobs. Some leave an organization if they feel they aren’t getting enough training.

A note of caution: Generational characteristics don’t always apply to everyone within the same generation. Also, those born at the end of one date range may have characteristics that overlap with the preceding or succeeding generation.

Now, let’s discuss appearance. It counts.

Clothing choices depend on the work environment. And stylish means something different to each person. If you feel your wardrobe needs an update, talk to a fashion consultant, life coach or a sales associate at a department store that sells to working women.

Finally, consider having a chat with your co-workers about how you are feeling. Find some common ground for discussion. Be interested in them. You might ask to see photos of their children, pets or a recent vacation.

Hopefully, some of this information will add to your understanding of the inherent generational differences. It’s worth a try to bridge the gap. Good luck and best wishes.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.