Gen X in the Workplace
Disclaimer: All of these characteristics are generalizations and by no means define each person within the age group. Rather, it’s an amalgamation of various data sources, opinions, and anecdotal evidence used to create a basic profile that simplifies the nuances of generational diversity.
Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, saw the rise of the internet as an opportunity to step back from the corporate 9-5 and forge their own path. The dot-com boom opened doors that had never existed before. This age group had the opportunity to network, learn, try their hand at brand new skills, and, for the first time in history, largely do so without their parents around.
From 1900 to 1940, the number of working women increased by 5.2%, but the percentage of working married women increased by 20.5%. More profoundly, the percentage of dual-worker families increased from 9% in 1940 to 59.1% by 1980, accounting for a massive 557% increase over 40 years.
These were the proverbial latchkey kids, spending hours after school with different expectations than Baby Boomers could have dreamed of when they were growing up. They took care of themselves– and often their siblings– a fact that stoked a fierce independence that never quite died down.
It also led to a generation of entrepreneurs, particularly those who saw from the earliest days of the internet that this was going to change the world. While older generations struggled to grasp the brand-new technology available to them, Post Boomers grabbed on with a white-knuckle grip, determined to turn this powerful tool into long-term success.
With that came a sense of task-oriented efficiency, which is understandable when considering the break-neck speed at which technology started to change. If Gen X wanted to keep up, they had to stay flexible, stay hungry, and, perhaps most critically, leave their corporate work at the office to spend more time delving into their entrepreneurial pursuits.
There wasn’t enough time in a day to arrive early and stay late once Gen X disposed of the previous generations’ sense of all-encompassing importance placed on building lifelong career working for someone else.
Other names include the Doers, Post Boomers, and the 13th Generation. Gen Xers account for 33% of employees.
Common Traits and Beliefs
- Critical of tradition for the sake of tradition
- Highly flexible
- Building a family comes after you build yourself
- Fiscally conservative
- Questioning of blind loyalty
- Work to live, not live to work
- Being responsible for one’s own health, happiness, and success
- Results-oriented expectations
- Trust over micromanagement
- Success is based on results, not hours punching the clock
- Plenty of opportunities for self-led professional development
- They have a say over what they do and how they do it
- Informal and familiar relationships with leadership; access to authority without jumping through hoops
Ideal Work Environment
- Merit-based advancement
- Fast-paced, engaging work
- Tools and resources to complete their projects as they see fit
- Open workspaces for collaboration, private offices for independence
- Flexible work schedules
- Knowing the “why” of their duties
- Adapting to changes in tech, leadership, and project direction
- Excellent at following duty expectations, so long as they are left alone to do them.
- Adept at solving problems logically and without panic
- Have a wide range of practical and technical skills
- Apt multitaskers
- Serve as a happy medium between Boomers and Millennials; may enjoy serving as the voice of reason between two very distinctive age groups
- Are often willing to quit when something better comes along
- Can be impatient, especially with leadership
- Don’t play well with rigidity, especially under authoritarian management
- Tend to be “rule breakers,” and will simply not comply if they don’t feel that a rule is valuable, practical, or reasonable