Generations: Working with Baby Boomers (Part 1) | Inquirer Business

Generations: Working with Baby Boomers (Part 1)

Like it or not, various generations need to work well together. Due to the socioeconomic environment they grew up in, members of each generation have their particular characteristics, both positive and negative, which influence their life perspectives, work ethics, attitudes towards business and money.

Local research into intergenerational issues is lacking, so we use the following American terms: Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. Though Philippine and US situations share similarities, they are also different in significant ways.

Born from 1928 to 1945, Veterans came of age from 1949 to 1966. In the United States, they benefited from increase in jobs and free education in the economic boom after World War II. But rising political threats such as the Cold War and possibility of nuclear annihilation dampened enthusiasm.


Born from 1946 to 1965, Baby Boomers came of age from 1967 to 1986. In the US, they lived during politically turbulent times (Kennedy and King assassinations, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, Vietnam War, Watergate, oil embargo, AIDS). Job opportunities were overshadowed by politics, contributing to general uncertainty.


Philippine situation

In the Philippines, relieved that peace had come, Veterans and Baby Boomers enjoyed post-war economic prosperity and newfound independence. Many family businesses either started during this time, or regained momentum after having been closed down at wartime. But as an ally of the United States, the Philippines shared some of its tensions, as mentioned above.

Martial Law was a defining factor. Some family businesses prospered in the 1970s and 1980s, but several were taken over by the government. Some business founders benefited from close political ties, while others fled to start anew elsewhere. A general atmosphere of uncertainty pervaded businesses.

“We could not relax, we never knew what would happen the year after,” says Mario (not his real name), president of a manufacturing firm, now 61. “I started in our business after college. My father was very thrifty. Once I asked him why we were reusing some things. Today this is recycling and it’s now fashionable! But in 1977, my father said that every single peso counts. He could never forget how bad times were before.

“We avoided politics. We were not pro- or anti-martial law. Neutral, I guess. We just focused on our business. We worked hard and saved hard. Things felt uncertain, as if our business could suddenly just be taken out of our hands for whatever reason.”

Work ethic


Veterans and Baby Boomers might have started out idealistic, but because of turbulent times, security, stability and prosperity have become important for them. They thrive in familiar environments and value routine. They are goal-oriented and are loyal to the company, expecting in return that the latter will provide for their retirement and old age.

Having paid their dues, they are now in positions of authority in their fields, including family businesses. They tend to avoid conflict, in favor of harmony. They value long hours and constant presence in the workplace.

Often they cannot understand the work habits of the younger generation.

“Why our business is so respected now is because of my father and me,” says Mario. “We would go into the plant before the workers, and leave after them. We took care of our reputation. Things are different now. The young ones do not have our work ethic. They go from job to job, not content. They want to be promoted at once, even if they do not deliver. They also talk back to their elders, even if we tell them that cooperation is important. They work from anywhere, in the café, at home, etc. If they cannot commit themselves to our business, then they should find a job elsewhere.”

Work experience for the older generation is more important than formal degrees. Many family business leaders, now in their mid-50s to 70s, do not have an MBA; some did not finish college or high school. But they are respected for their expertise and street smarts, and many remain at the helm of the family businesses they created half a century ago.

“When I retire, which I won’t do till I am 75, I will create a foundation,” says Mario. “But now I am still strong, with God’s help. My mind is clear. I don’t understand why people who just turned 50 say they burn out and they want to quit. They were lucky enough not to have experienced war or martial law, and they give up easily. Money is not easy to come by. I can always give back to society once I have enough money to do so.” Next week: Generation X

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(Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press [e-mail [email protected].) Email the author at [email protected].)

TAGS: baby boomers, Business, column, queena n. lee-chua

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