Are Baby Boomers overstaying their welcome as guests 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?


Ira S Wolfe