Generational Gap Series:
Generation X in the Workplace

Generational Gap Series

Following on from the Baby Boomers, this week in our Generational Gap Series we take a look at Generation X; sometimes referred to as the ‘misunderstood generation’.

 

GENERATION X (Born 1965 – 1980)

This relatively small generation is playing an interesting role in today’s workforce. Currently in their 30s and 40s, most Gen Xers are feeling comfortable in their careers. However, with more Baby Boomers delaying retirement than expected, a lot of Gen Xers find themselves butting up against the ‘grey ceiling’ and are being stalled mid-career. We’ll be taking a look at how to empower Gen X to take over the reigns from Baby Boomers and mold a new working environment that accommodates the younger generations.

 

CHARACTERISTICS

While these characteristics are broad stereotypes the common demographic, economic and social trends each generation shares influenced their formative years.

So what are the broad characteristics of Generation X?

 

Independent

  • The product of work-centric parents, these ‘latch-key’ children are self-reliant
  • They want to build a repertoire of skills and experiences they can take with them if they need to

 

Skeptical

  • Gen X grew up during times of economic uncertainty in the 80s
  • They can be critical and suspicious of being taken advantage of

 

Seek Balance

  • Compared to previous generations, Gen X ‘work to live’ rather than ‘live to work’
  • They want balance now – not when they retire
  • Don’t want to miss time with their children

 

Value Directness & Informality

  • The enjoy informality and humour in the workplace
  • Gen-Xers also want immediate and honest feedback

 

Technologically Savvy

  • First generation to grow up with the internet and personal computers
  • Comfortable with new and changing technology

 

MANAGING GENERATION X

A generation study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers Canada suggests, “Gen Xers are perhaps being “squeezed” by older workers delaying retirement, and younger, more aggressive Gen Ys intent on rising through the ranks quickly.” Juggling the three (and sometimes more generations) will be tricky. Businesses will need Gen X to take on the leadership roles from Boomers, as well as mentor an eager and impatient Gen Y.

Generation X are more than capable of taking on senior positions and leading future generations – you just have to let them. Unlike the older generations, their focus is more on results, rather than process.

Here’s a few tips on working with/managing Generation X:

 

Allow Room to Grow

  • Give them opportunities to learn new skills and gain more knowledge
  • Set goals but let them choose how to achieve those goals
  • Dislike being micro-managed

 

Slowly Build Trust

  • Don’t be too pushy
  • Be careful not to provide suggestions too quickly
  • Keep your promises to slowly build trust

 

Offer Work/Life Balance

  • Gen X work to live and prioritize their families
  • Allow for flexible working arrangements

 

Communicate Informally and Make It Fun

  • Be direct and open when communicating
  • Don’t micromanage or spend too much time on process
  • Gen X enjoy fun workplaces and activities

 

The focus for businesses with Gen X employees is to giving them opportunities and freedom in their leadership. They are going to be key in establishing a work environment that will lead a large Gen Y workforce, as well as bridge that ‘knowledge gap’ from the Baby Boomers.

Have any stories you like to share about the Gen Xers in your workplace? Let us know in the comments below.

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