Are Baby Boomers Overstaying Their Welcome in the Workplace?

The “I’ll work forever” attitude of the Baby Boomers is bringing movement up the career ladder to a complete stand-still.  It’s like waiting for a table in a busy restaurant when the guests at the table you want have finished their dessert and paid the bill but are busy chatting well beyond their “allotted” time.  The longer they stay, the more intense the glares and more uncomfortable everyone becomes.

Fellow blogger Sue Danbom posed an intriguing post this morning when she asked, “Brett Favre – Poster Child for “Un-retirement.” Will Boomers Do the Same?  There is no question the Baby Boomers will be hanging around the workplace longer than anyone ever expected.  For some organizations that’s a good thing….for others, it’s bad.  While Boomers may have the experience, they don’t always possess the talent and skills needed to compete in the “new economy.” (Don’t confuse the War for Talent with a shortage of people to fill the jobs.  The War for Talent is still being fought over skilled workers, with an emphasis on “skilled.”)

Sue highlights Favre’s journey from his Hall of Fame career to the soap-opera history of his retirement to un-retirement to retirement.  Last week he announced his latest un-retirement. And she rightfully asks if Boomers, “Like Favre, will they have second (and third and fourth) thoughts after they leave the workforce?”

That’s a great question and I strongly believe the answer will be YES.  But management will be remiss if they don’t anticipate the loss of Gen X who feel they are trapped by the likes of Boomers in Brett Favre clothing.   The postponed retirements and perpetual un-retirements is creating a measureable resentment in the Gen X cohort who are getting blocked by a thickening Gray Ceiling.  This ceiling is not only frustrating Gen X, but Gen Y too. 

For those organizations who don’t take heed, they could easily lose the experience and wisdom of both the seated guests (Boomers) and the wait list (Gen X and Gen Y at the same time.

It’s also important to recognize that Brett Favre is not a Baby Boomer.  While Brett Favre’s behavior might resemble that of an aging Boomer, he is a Generation X born in 1969.  So I ask, is Favre a Baby Boomer trapped in a Gen X body or is his behavior a sign of things to come for aging Gen Xers, too?

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5 Responses to “Are Baby Boomers Overstaying Their Welcome in the Workplace?”

  • As a researcher and writer for a workforce development organization (and a Gen X-er), I’ve been paying attention to the delayed retirement and career-ladder stall for quite some time.

    My greatest fear around this issue is that by the time the Boomers leave the workforce, employers will seek to replace them with the most technologically savvy generation — Generation Y — leaving my generation frustrated and with nowhere to go. And this is not necessarily because the X-ers are incapable of doing the work, but that they were delayed just long enough that the younger generation, which will undoubtedly have more current skill sets and just enough experience to justify their hiring.

    So while I like the “waiting for a table” metaphor, I feel that the situation may prove to be more like queueing up at a nightclub, where the bouncer leans toward letting the younger crowd in regardless of how long others may have been waiting at the front of the line.

  • Ira Wolfe:

    Larry – you are absolutely 100% correct. And thanks for expanding my metaphor! I address the issue of Gen Ys “leapfrogging” Gen X in my book and in one of several articles on the downside of Boomers staying longer…..Gen X butts up against Gray Ceiling

  • [...] the Baby Boomers transferring their wealth to Generations X and Y, they are getting more money by staying at their jobs and spending their existing wealth on vacations as well as life-extending medicines and procedures [...]

  • [...] trans­fer­ring their wealth to Gen­er­a­tions X and Y, they are get­ting more money by stay­ing at their jobs and spend­ing their exist­ing wealth on vaca­tions as well as life-extending med­i­cines and [...]

  • Ira Wolfe:

    Samuel….it seems the following paragraph from your article sums up a reasonable argument:

    “Gen­er­a­tions X and Y have yet to have the col­lec­tive wealth, rights, and respon­si­bil­i­ties trans­ferred and assigned to them from the Baby Boomers. As a result, young peo­ple are stuck in their often-criticized state of per­pet­ual ado­les­cence because we can­not afford the trap­pings of so-called matu­rity: mar­riage, home, and fam­ily. What else can we do but wait?”

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