Common Characteristics of Traditionalists—the "Silent Generation"
Can hiring a traditionalist benefit your law firm?
Traditionalists are known as the "silent generation" because children of this era were expected to be seen and not heard. They're those who were born between 1927 and 1946, and they average in age from 75 to 80 years old in 2018.
Most of them have retired from the workforce, and those who remain can be expected to work fewer hours.
Characteristics of Silent Generation Professionals
Traditionalists are generally partners, managers, and senior support staff in the legal workplace, although some might sign on as part-time administrative staff just to keep busy after retirement.
Silent generation attorneys often serve "of counsel" to law firms. They've technically retired, but they maintain a close relationship with the firm and they can be called upon for their expertise on a case-by-case basis.
The Silent Generation Is Hardworking
The silent generation brought the strong work ethic of their parents into the factories of industrialized society. They grew up during lean times, including the Great Depression and World War II. They consider work a privilege and it shows—they're considered the wealthiest generation.
Traditionalists believe that you earn your own way through hard work. Long, grueling hours in their prime enabled them to get ahead in their legal careers, and they think others should do the same. This generation believes that promotions and advancement should be the result of tenure and proven productivity. They distrust flash-in-the-pan successes.
They Have Willpower
Adversity doesn't daunt the silent generation. They tend to be dogged and determined, willing to go the distance even if they have to dig deep for the strength to do so. Again, they survived the Great Depression.
Many of them had to toughen up and bear down to earn a living in those days to simply survive. They were often forced to take jobs that didn't necessarily appeal to them. They took what work was available...if and when it was available, and they were grateful for it. You won't find a traditionalist stomping off in a huff and quitting to grab the next available job that comes along.
Traditionalists Are Loyal Employees
Traditionalists are civic-minded and loyal to their country and to their employers. In fact, they still register as the largest voting population in the U.S.
Unlike Generation Y and Generation X workers, many traditionalists have stayed with the same employer throughout their entire working lives. They're less likely to change jobs to advance their careers than younger generations, but they expect the same loyalty in return.
They Respect Authority
Raised in a paternalistic environment, the silent generation was taught to respect authority. Conformity and conservatism are prized. They tend to be good team players. They generally don’t ruffle feathers or initiate conflict in the workplace, and they like to feel needed.
Waste Not, Want Not
Traditionalists tend to be thrifty. These are not folks who are going to trade their cars in every few years. They'll diligently maintain what they own to extend the property's lifespan. Of course, this can become annoying in the workforce, particularly for Millennials who aren't inclined to dry out a sheet of paper towel for reuse later.
The Silent Generation Can Be Tech-Challenged
Don't expect your silent generation employee to be a whiz at operating his new smartphone. Of all the generations active in today's workplaces, traditionalists are the slowest to change their work habits and to adapt to new, more efficient ways of doing things. This is particularly the case when those efficient ways involve technology.
Traditionalists might struggle to learn new technology as it evolves and changes the practice of law, and they might try your younger staff's patience with the need for ongoing instruction in this area.
The flip side is that they often have great one-on-one interpersonal skills because they're more accustomed to dealing with people eye-to-eye. They've honed their abilities to use this to their advantages.
Traditionalists value old-time morals, safety, security, and consistency. They have more respect for brick-and-mortar educational institutions and traditional lecture formats than online, web-based education and training. This generation favors conventional business models in the legal workplace and a top-down chain of command. Work ethic and reliability are important to them.