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From boomers to Gen Z: Boomers still want to be heard in the dental workplace

Oct. 19, 2021
There are so many of them that most dental offices still have baby boomers among their employees. This group has worked hard and they plan to stay in the workplace for a while.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a six-part series about generational dynamics in today’s workplace. Watch for future installments on DentistryIQ from Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA. Read the first two: Generational differences in the workplace and What about the 'silent generation'?

Baby boomers is the name of the group born after World War II between 1946 and 1964. The birth rate in America soared when soldiers returned home. By 1964, this generation of 80 million comprised 40% of the US population.1 According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and this is expected to continue into the 2030s. This means that nearly seven boomers turn 65 every minute of every day.2 By 2030, the Census Bureau projects that for the first time, the US will have more people over the age of 65 than it will have children.3

Who exactly are the baby boomers? There are actually two groups of baby boomers. The first, boomers I, were born between 1946 and 1954, while boomers II, aka Generation Jones, were born between 1955 and 1964.4 If you haven’t heard of Generation Jones (Jonesers), you’re not alone. The term was coined in 1999 by author Jonathan Pontell.5 For years, Generation Jones was lumped in with all boomers by sociologists because they were born during the high birth rate period. Yet, over time, sociologists accepted Generation Jones as a separate generation. Here, I discuss the similarities and differences between the two boomer groups.

Boomer qualities 

Baby boomers are often known for their strong work ethic and goal-centric inclinations. They tend to be hardworking and value face-to-face interaction. Even though they didn't grow up using computers, they use technology for job-related functions. The Jonesers and boomers have a lot in common as the two generations were young children during a period of huge economic growth. However, that changed for the Jonesers during their late teens in the 1970s when the nation faced a worsening economy due to the oil crises. The failing economy and the Watergate scandal contributed to a changing cultural mood, making the Jonesers more cynical than the boomers.

The early baby boomers were teens and young adults during the 1960s—the decade of flower power, hippies, and the Beatles. The term “Keeping up with the Joneses” formed part of the culture of the Jonesers, who coined the terms “jones” or “jonesing,” meaning to crave or yearn. Jonesers had huge expectations as children in the 1960s, but as young adults they faced high unemployment and deindustrialization.6

Home life was different for young boomers than it was for boomers I. More families needed to have two working parents due to changes in the economy and job availability, whereas most boomers grew up with the father working and the mother at home. With the competitive job market and economic stresses, divorce rose as the Jonesers entered their formative years, causing teens to spend more time working independently and caring for themselves.1 

Core values and attributes: Both groups are optimistic and highly competitive. Both are motivated by organization loyalty, teamwork, and duty, and respect is sought as well as given. 

Workplace views: Since Boomers and Jonesers associate work and positions with self-worth, they can be very competitive in the workplace. Both believe in hierarchal structure and rankism and may have a hard time adjusting to workplace flexibility trends. Both groups believe in face time at the office and may fault younger generations for working remotely. 

What they look for in a position: Many look for the opportunity to shine in the workplace by making noticeable contributions to a company, especially when representing a valid cause. They strive to fit in with an organization’s vision or mission. They enjoy working as part of a team, they need clear and concise job expectations, and they will see a project through to completion.

Keys to working with baby boomers 

Boomers want to hear that their ideas matter because they were valued when they were young and therefore expect to be valued in the workplace. Before they do anything, they need to know why it matters, how it fits into the big picture, and what impacts it will have. Boomers are motivated by their responsibilities to others and respond well to recognition, but they’re less likely to offer recognition. Constructive criticism is a challenge for them because they need flexibility and want attention and freedom in the workplace. Boomers have little work-life balance and often “live to work.” 

While Boomers are retiring in increasing numbers, the Jonesers remain in the workforce and carry critical knowledge of decades’ worth of industrial, economic, and corporate changes. They represent a sense of history within their fields but are often viewed negatively by their younger counterparts. Jonesers are a bit more open minded than boomers I when it comes to change and technology. 

Career development: With increased educational and financial opportunities than previous generations, boomers are achievement-oriented, dedicated, and career-focused. Boomers focus on developing their careers through opportunities within one workplace or one field. They believe that team members should be moved up based on seniority, not on skill and expertise. 

Due to the tight market when the Jonesers were growing up, they had to work hard, dress for the jobs they wanted, and develop methods of standing out in the workplace. Their main focus was on keeping their jobs, especially during unsettling economic times. This period of fierce competition for job stability has stayed with this group. 

The bottom line about boomers 

Boomers are more apt to challenge leadership than those who came before them, and to embrace change when many oppose it. Employers should provide them with specific goals and deadlines to appease their workaholic tendencies. Employers should ask them how they’ve accomplished goals and gotten things done. If employers are open to learning from boomers’ experience, they’ll excel in mentoring positions. Unlike their predecessors, many boomers have opted against retiring at age 65 because they enjoy their jobs. But the shadow of age discrimination often undermines their efforts to seek new employment if they choose to change fields. 

Generation Jones is now aged 56-67 and are nearly 50 million strong. Some experts say that the Jonesers’ political influence and buying power are massive and only beginning to be understood. The generation’s major contribution may be in today’s workforce if employers look past graying hair, where they just might see the answer to their recruiting problems. 

Stay tuned for part four of this series, where I will take close look at Generation X.

Part 1: Generational differences in the workplace

Part 2: What about the 'silent generation'?

This article first appeared in the Dental Assisting Digest newsletter. To subscribe, visit dentistryiq.com/subscribe.


1. Werde S. Early boomers + Generation Jones: meet the two boomer subgroups. Generations. 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://www.generations.com/insights/early-boomers-generation-jones-meet-the-two-boomer-subgroups

2. Frankel M. 9 baby boomer statistics that will blow you away. The Motley Fool. July 29, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://www.fool.com/retirement/2017/07/29/9-baby-boomer-statistics-that-will-blow-you-away.aspx

3. Gibson WE. Age 65+ adults are projected to outnumber children by 2030. AARP. March 14, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2021. https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2018/census-baby-boomers-fd.html

4. Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, and Gen A explained. Kasasa. July 6, 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://www.kasasa.com/exchange/articles/generations/gen-x-gen-y-gen-z

5. Gabriel T. How to tell if you’re part of ‘Generation Jones’: A specific "micro-generation" of people wedged between baby boomers and Gen X. Considerable. May 28, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://www.considerable.com/life/people/generation-jones-group-boomers-gen-x/

6. What is Generation Jones? Difference between Genjonesers and Baby Boomers. Market Business News. Accessed October 1, 2021. https://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/generation-jones/

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, is a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA).

About the Author

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, is a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the ADAA.