Much has been written about the Millennials (or Generation Y) as they replaced the Boomers as the largest generation in the workplace. Lost sometimes is the importance of the generation that precedes the Millennials — Generation X, also referred to negatively as slackers (more about that later).
Generation X born in the early 60’s through 1980 are making a significant impact in the workplace even if the Boomers and Millennials are the focus of attention. Generation X is quietly moving into middle management and senior leadership roles in many organizations. They are increasingly becoming the boss in the workplace!If you're having difficulty relating to Gen X, you're in an unsustainable position. If they are not your boss yet, it's possible they will be in the near future. Click To Tweet
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Understanding and Managing the Four Generations in the Workplace, Generation X has a different perspective about work. They view work as just a job, not their life.
This Gen X trend contributed to the negative label some gave them as slackers. This is an erroneous view of Gen X however.
It is not that Gen Xers are slack about their work. Rather, they want work/life balance.
Gen Xers will work as hard as anyone else, but they do not want the job to take over their life. It is a different perspective that reflects their generational experiences of the 70’s and 80’s.Don't call Gen Xers slackers! Wanting to have a life while working for an organization is not a bad thing! Some will say it's the only way to view things! Click To Tweet
Compared to other generations, Gen Xers come from homes with the highest number of divorced parents and many Gen Xers raised themselves as latch-key kids. Many Gen Xers remember the absence of their parents in their lives (because of busy careers or divorces) and they do not want to repeat the cycle.
When working for or with Gen Xers, you’ll often see that they have a wait-and-see attitude. There’s a reason for this: Gen X saw how unforgiving life can be and this has taught them the value of skepticism and self reliance.
For example, during the 80’s, Gen Xers observed the layoffs that occurred. They saw their family members who had put faith in their jobs and employers suddenly become unemployed. This taught Gen Xers the importance of taking care of themselves and it gave them a resourcefulness for getting results.
Regarding workplace authority, Gen Xers differ from Boomers. Boomers challenge authority; Gen Xers work around authority or they influence authority to get the results they want.
Gen Xers saw some very public leadership failures such as President Nixon and Reverend Swaggart. These national media failures combined with the failure of many of the Gen X parents’ marriages has given Gen Xers a casual attitude toward organizational leadership.
In fact, many Gen Xers are not outwardly deferential to organizational leaders. Boomer and Veteran managers sometimes misinterpret this casual attitude as disrespect.
This is another flawed view of Gen X.
The truth is Gen Xers are unimpressed by authority, not disrespectful of it.Gen X does not disrespect organizational leadership. It's just that their experiences have taught them not to be overly impressed with it — leaders can and do fail. Click To Tweet
Gen Xers’ tendencies to question assumptions and expectations make them innovative if given the chance to be so in the workplace. Being self-reliant survivors, they tend to be practical managers who will identify several methods for achieving results.
On the job, you can expect Gen Xers to be adaptable, independent, technologically savvy and creative. They can also be cynical and impatient. Finally, they tend to be less tolerant of organizational politics (it gets in the way of real work).
For Training & Development Magazine, author Tamara Erickson gave the following insightful summary that helps to understand Generation X:
Gen X . . . are above all, options thinkers. Gen Xers like to develop multiple skills because that provides them with the opportunity to move in various directions, depending on evolving needs and opportunities. Offer them choices.
Sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials, Generation X is at times the forgotten middle child.
Management and leadership development and training efforts that account for the different perspectives of Gen Xers offer organizations the best opportunity to unleash the creative and pragmatic talent of this generation.Gen X'ers life experiences have shown them the value of self-reliance with a healthy dose of skepticism. Click To Tweet