Top 7 Differences Between Generation X and Boomers
No, they’re not from Mars, but Generation Xers are dramatically different from the Boomers. Here are the top 7 difference you’re likely to see between Boomers and Xers in the workplace.
1. Their approach to authority is casual. It’s not that Xers don’t respect authority; it’s that they are unimpressed by authority. Xers grew up watching many “authority” figures fall from grace. Think Nixon, Jim Baker, and Jimmy Swaggart. Many also saw their own parents (their first authority figures) divorce. What they witnessed has a definite impact on their views on authority. In Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace, the authors explain that Xers are likely to treat the company president just the way they would the front-desk receptionist.
2. They thrive in a casual, fun work environment. You’d be hard pressed to find a stuffed shirt Xer. Generation X wants an informal and casual workplace. And we’re talking more than Jeans Day once a week. In Generations At Work, the authors report that “Many (Xers) assert that casual days aren’t just a perk: they actually make us work harder and get more done.” Further, the authors of Generations At Work report that “Anything that makes work less “corporate” resonates well with generation X “.
3. Xers are pessimistic when it comes to their future. A survey of Generation X revealed that more Xers believe General Hospital will be around longer than Social Security. Xers have seen massive layoffs and slashes in company benefit plans. They are skeptical about their future and almost no Xer expects to work at one company until retirement.
4. They have a nontraditional approach to time. (Surprise, surprise!) The attitude of many Xers is “As long as I get my work done and do my fair share, what does it matter what time I show up or leave?” Don’t mistake this attitude with “slacking?” Xers grew up in flexible times and they approach everything – even work schedules – with a flexible attitude.
5. Family and work balance is extremely important to Xers. Many Xers grew up in two-income families. And as a result, there was no one waiting at home to bring them milk and cookies. Their parents made many sacrifices, including missing out on school plays and sporting events. Xers are determined to make work serve their lives and not the other way around.
6. Generation Xers tend to be technologically savvy. You’re probably not surprised to learn than that Xers will prefer to hold discussions and make decisions electronically over traditional staff meetings and memos. Xers grew up with GameBoys, microwaves, and VCRs. Technology is second nature to them.
7. Workaholism is not a trait you’ll find in many Gen Xers. While it may be common to find a Boomer who is a workaholic, this is not the case with Xers. Their motto is “Get a life!”
If you’ve had challenges understanding, managing, or motivating your Generation X (1965-1976) employees, you’re not alone. Few managers are naturally endowed with the specific skills, strategies, and smarts it takes to manage and motivate this young, unique, complex, and talented generation.