Video 1: Understanding and Managing Generation X
As I work with managers, the generational divide continues to be a challenge for many of them. I still hear older managers complaining about the poor work ethics of younger workers and younger managers complaining about the do it my way or hit the highway attitude of older workers. The newest diversity challenge in the workplace is generational.
While there is much that all generations have in common, there are some differences too that come from a different time and place in our collective American experience. As I noted in an earlier post on Baby Boomers:
Generational personality comes from events that a generation of people experience as they are growing up in a certain point in time in American history. These events shape the values of that generation which they later bring to the workplace.
Gen X'ers, sandwiched in-between the Baby Boomers and Gen Y (the Millennials), were born in the early 60's through 1980. Their core values include diversity, self-reliance, practicality, informality, work/life balance, flexibility, and technology. Like other engaged workers, Gen X'ers give their best when their responsibilities in the workplace align with their values. Their performance suffers when their values are ignored.
What events helped to shape the Gen X personality? Many Gen X'ers grew up as latch-key kids and their generation comes from families with the highest percentage of divorce.
Here's a list of 15 influential events that shaped Gen X'ers as they were growing up:
- Fall of the Berlin Wall
- Challenger disaster
- Energy crisis
- Jonestown mass suicide
- Rise of the personal computer
- Watergate scandal
- Lockerbie flight bombing
- Three Mile Island meltdown
- Corporate layoffs
- Rodney King beating
- Iranian hostage crisis
- Stock market decline
- Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill
- Operation Desert Storm
- Terrorism at the Munich Olympics
Given the uncertainty of their times, it's easier to understand the adaptable and sometimes skeptical nature of Gen X'ers. I frequently refer to them as the real winners of Survivor. Managers who adjust their approach to account for different generational needs get better results from Gen X workers.