The modern forces of extended life expectancy, socio-economic conditions and career aspirations have created the possibility of five generations working side by side. Age has always been a workplace factor, but mostly around the handoff to the “next generation(s),” not usually about successfully co-habiting in the workplace with diverse mindsets.
I first explored distinctive mindsets of Millennials, and then Boomers, specifically in the packaging industry. Now, I delve into the Silent Generation (born from 1923 to 1944); perched atop the multi-generational workplace. The fifth generation, they are working, retired, semi-retired or passionately mentoring others.
Here’s what we can learn and leverage from their mindsets in our work.
1. Grit and go
The pervading circumstances of this generation formed them into a head-down-and-work mindset. This is often associated with their name “Silent,” as they labored on and applied resourceful willpower to achieve goals. Where “constraint thinking” is a powerful way of working today, constrained circumstances dominated their days—making it imperative to work cleverly.
Action: Adopt a “constraint mindset” and replicate the resourceful solutions of the Silent Generation. For more on constraint thinking, check out “A Beautiful Constraint” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden.
2. The re-use generation
I remember leering into my grandma’s refrigerator, scooping applesauce from a Cool Whip container; or peering into my grandpa’s barn, spotting I Can’t believe It’s Not Butter tubs filled with nuts and bolts. Re-use was automatic. There wasn't anything left to recycle! As we peruse packaging “hacks” like these DIY Mason Jar Lunchables ideas, we should remember that the Silent Generation is full of resourceful ideas.
Action: Leverage this generation’s propensity for re-use ideas with today’s array of packaged goods.
3. Tangible connections
A former CEO of Campbell’s adopted this generation’s mindset for tangible and meaningful connection points. He famously laced up his sneakers, not for a game of tennis but for trekking around the Campbell’s campus, popping in on anyone and everyone who wanted to chat. This was a meaningful method of tangible connection, amidst the tangle of corporate environs. This generation thrives on those personal face-to-face and tangible connection points.
Action: Some afternoon, lace up your sneakers and walk around to connect with people face to face (consider this a relational exercise!).
The Silent Generation may be on the peripheral of the workplace cultural map, rarely calling attention to themselves. But they are marked with mindsets the rest of would be wise to emulate.
Matt Dingee is an American ex-pat currently packaging manager across the Campbell Soup’s packaging in the Canadian market for brands that include V8, Campbell’s Soup and Broth, Goldfish, Pepperidge Farm, Plum Organics and innovation platforms. He previously worked in various packaging roles across Pepperidge Farm and Campbell’s, and has a BS from the School of Packaging, Michigan State University. Additionally, Dingee is a recipient of the prestigious DuPont Award in 2013 for initiating and commercializing a new to market reclose feature. You can likely find him reading, serving his church or brewing coffee on his Aeropress-inverted method.
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