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The Impact of Covid-19 on Different Generations – Episode 2: The Authoritarians

As a business magazine, we focus on generations that are still sufficiently active and decisive in business. We move from the past to the present on the timeline, so we must start with the generation known as “The Authoritarians”, who were born between 1949 and 1960. The effects they experience are important not only because COVID posed the greatest health threat to them, but also because they are the ones who have a very hard time experiencing the real, radical changes.

Before the crisis

This age group has lost much of its power in business, and this was true even before the crisis. This generation characteristically believes in manual labour, and it is important for them to have physically tangible results. Many people of this era have self-taught business knowledge, having simply grown up in their own company. In the absence of encyclopaedic knowledge, they focused on work, and in most cases, even at multinationals, the owner themself was involved as a “worker” in building the company. For them, valuing people and empathy are important, and they usually envision working in a team. That is why it was a great challenge for them to grow their own company, as one of the most difficult tasks was to let go of their daily tasks. To this day, some have not been able to do this while feeling safe. In business, they are characterised by building and maintaining long-lasting, friendship-based relationships, even when these relationships may not be the most effective solutions. For them, human relationships are more important than, say, increasing the profit margin. This has been a growing problem for their companies over the past 10-12 years, as the Great Recession punished this attitude the most. It is no coincidence that it is rare that a company run by an Authoritarian did not suffer mightily after the Great Recession. However, these companies have amassed quite a fortune in more peaceful times, and since this generation does not like to spend their money, corporate regression is often imperceptible because the owner covers it up. They cover it up because they have serious egos. Their worldview, too, is usually that they should be respected for what they have achieved in the past. They don’t really know what to do with the blunt mirror shown by the younger generations, which demands modernisation, progress, and innovation from this generation. This is because the Authoritarian generation is usually weak in these fields, with some rare exceptions. It is difficult for them to accept changes, and even in crises, they are more likely to wait for everything to be sorted out one day.

After the crisis

This attitude also caused great losses post-2008, as markets reorganised, and after a while, they were forced to face the fact that nothing would be the same. Many leaders from this generation lost their positions following the Great Recession, and many have left on their own. If the situation was drastic in 2008, it is difficult to find indicators of what this generation is experiencing now. Almost no one remembers the past when they were rich in success, and in the present, they cannot meet the challenges of the new era. Self-taught, experience-based, often not very open thinking makes it impossible for them to rethink business strategies, preventing them from interpreting the new market structure. Of course, there are always exceptions; there are unique-minded businesspeople in every generation who stand out from their age group, but in general, the COVID crisis is completing the process launched by the Great Recession, and the Authoritarians has a dwindling role in future in business. Of course, this does not mean that they will not be present at all, but they may act as faces of companies rather than strategic decision-makers in the future. At least for successful companies, they will follow this path. Although they don’t mind this much either, as they’ve really done meaningful, “manual labour” all their lives, and they usually already want a rest, a stress-free life. It is difficult to start resting due to their constant distrust, especially of the younger generations who also succeed with less physical work.

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The Impact of Covid-19 on Different Generations – Episode 1: Generational Calculations in Strategy