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15 Influential Events that Shaped Generation X

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(Click the links below to move easily to sections of this article)

Why Generations See Things Differently
Who is Generation X
What Events Shaped Generation X
Video 1: Understanding and Managing Generation X
Video 2: 15 Influential Events that Shaped Generation X
Generations in the Workplace Article Series


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Why Generations See Things Differently

comment callouts saying why, why notAs 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 among them coming from different life experiences. These differences reflect the unique time and place that each generation has in history.

These differences give each generation a unique personality, 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.


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Who is Generation X

the word "who" written on a blackboardGen X’ers, sandwiched in-between the Baby Boomers and Gen Y (the Millennials), were born in the early 60’s through 1980. Their children, Generation Z, are now gradually entering the workplace.

Gen X’ers 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.

For Gen X, the job is work — a way to provide for themselves and their families. The job is not everything! Click To Tweet

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What Events Shaped Generation X

the word WHAT written on a chalkboardWhat events helped to shape the Gen X personality?

First, it’s important to understand one critical event for many Gen X’ers: the fact is that many of them grew up as latchkey kids.  It’s also true that their generation comes from families with the highest percentage of divorce. This has taught them the importance of having both self-reliance and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Here’s a list of 15 influential events that shaped Gen X’ers as they were growing up:

    1. Fall of the Berlin Wall
    2. Challenger disaster
    3. Energy crisis
    4. Jonestown mass suicide
    5. Rise of the personal computer
    6. Watergate scandal
    7. Lockerbie flight bombing
    8. Three Mile Island meltdown
    9. Corporate layoffs
    10. Rodney King beating
    11. Iranian hostage crisis
    12. Stock market decline
    13. Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill
    14. Operation Desert Storm
    15. 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 the unique generational needs of Gen X workers will get better results from them.

Gen X's are flexible, independent, skeptical and technologically savvy. They are also increasingly the BOSS in today's organizations. Click To Tweet

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Video 1: Understanding and Managing Generation X


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Video 2: 15 Influential Events that Shaped Generation X

If you're not working for a Gen X'er, you probably will be soon. Click To Tweet
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Generations in the Workplace Article Series


Article Reference Information: Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B. (2000). Generations at Work. New York: AMACOM.

Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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