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The Age of Outliers (Part 2): The turning point of generational success

The impact of generational behavioural trends in the post-COVID era

When someone drops out of a group, the feeling of dropping out, and the management of that feeling, go through different stages. There may not always be a great deal of acceptance in the end, but it very much depends on the reason for the exclusion and the reason for the non-inclusion. Being excluded from the generational trend is a major challenge for the person who is excluded and for their family, so that this does not cause such mental damage in childhood that it is clearly decided that adult life will be a failure for that person. It is common to say that the greatest figures of a generation have always been outcasts, and it is good to read that in history books, but not many people want to live a life that they have suffered through, only to be written about decades later as great people in their time. People want to enjoy life. As a result, outliers try to fit into their own generational trend first. Then, when they realise that it’s not going to work, the big question is: do they crash or step on the accelerator?

The first checkpoint

Not fitting into our own generation’s ideal image is meaningless for about 80% of our lives. We suffer most of the negative consequences in childhood. What this difference is worth in real life is first measured on the threshold of adult life. But it’s also when those who are used to star status as children get a big slap in the face, and whether in business or sport, it’s perfectly observable how few people can overcome this hurdle. After all, in adult life, you will be surrounded by members of a different generation, and there is no way of knowing – at least you have to be a very aware child who is constantly browsing generational research – what it will take to stand up to your peers. But what is certain is that our first boss, our colleagues, and our teammates are from a different generation, who see our own generation very differently. Moreover, in a strange twist of fate, or rather a perfect order of life events, there are usually significant differences between two “neighbouring” generations. So it can be said, in principle, that those who have struggled with difficulties with their own age group have a real chance of succeeding quickly in adult life. Because there is certainly a chance – although this is not necessarily true in all cases – that they have a behavioural mechanism or way of thinking that might be sympathetic to the older generation.

Generational differences

A good example of this is the less-than-cordial relationship between The Diplomats (1973-1984) and The Ambitionists (1985-1996). The two generations did not even start out in the same way, in terms of childhood and the beginning of adult life. The Diplomats generation entered the labour market in a much more fortunate position, as the world was reorganising in the early 1990s, the free world was advancing with the break-up of the Soviet Union, many multinationals were expanding enormously and growth was generally the order of the day, at least in managerial positions. This gave the young people of the time a good opportunity to build a very good career very quickly. The Internet came into the world, opening up new horizons, and this generation has the highest proportion of start-ups that have become truly world-famous. And let’s not forget that they are also the ones who created social media. It is from these events that they get their name, because networking, building their own image and diplomacy were high on their agenda from childhood and into adulthood. They worked hard to succeed, but their language skills and IT skills were already essential at the managerial level, so they moved up the ranks of international companies very easily. The world was also more open, and you no longer had to wait until you were 50 to get a good position, so this age group built a very remarkable career early on. Of course, this came at a price in their personal lives, but that is a subject for another article. When The Ambitionists entered the labour market, they were hit by the biggest economic crisis in decades. There was a huge contrast between the “I can be a billionaire” dream of childhood and the reality. Their lecturers at university were very vocal about the minimum income below which they should not be allowed to work and degrade their image. Well, compared to that, they should have been happy to be half as happy as they were, despite the huge downturn in the labour market, to have found a job at all. Obviously there were always some professions for which this was not true, but in general, the situation was nightmarish. Not to mention the fact that by the time they had struggled to build up their careers, they had another crisis on their hands. From the very first, The Diplomats generation did not like the attitude of the natives of the generation that succeeded them, as they saw themselves as wanting huge money and positions for nothing. They were described as an arrogant, demanding generation who could not be put to any meaningful work. Moreover, this generation was viewed in a particularly negative light by the older generations, where pushing and pushing over others is seen as even more unacceptable behaviour. Yet, in principle, star businesspeople from this not necessarily well-liked generation can be identified. But the RISE research is interesting, as almost 100% of the successful managers assessed in the COVID-19 pre-crisis studies from The Ambitionists generation have a Supporter personality type, which is the exact opposite of the generational trend. The most likeable, hardworking, honest, and persistent type of all. And it’s true that the generational effect often takes even this personality type in the direction of laziness and easy ways, but their level of dominance doesn’t fail to impress. These relationships are, of course, redefined with every crisis, and it is precisely these mental and behavioural trends that COVID has had the most impact on. It is, therefore, an interesting question to know which generation’s “outliers” are really the people of the future.