Generation X (born between mid-l960s and late-1970s).
Americans refer to this generation as the Thirteenth Generation. It is the 13th generation since 1620. Douglas Coupland, a Canadian author (depending on who you ask), either stole the name of Billy Idol or found it in an obscure sociology text for Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. This fictional story is about three people who choose to be apart from society in order to better understand who they are. Coupland describes his characters as “underemployed”,, overeducated and highly private. They are also unpredictable. Coupland claims he borrowed the title of his book from Paul Fussell’s book Class. Fussell used the term “X” for a group that wants to get away from status, class, and money in society. Coupland’s characters fit this description, so Fussell chose the title, Generation X.
GenXers love friendship, music, sound systems, computers, television, and computer games. School, work, youth groups and involvement in religious groups rank low. The top of the list represents areas of freedom, choice, and independence. Those below are usually managed by Boomers.
Marketers were desperate to find a name for GenX, and the phrase GenX was their choice. There has been much debate about the term, and many other options have been presented, some not complimentary.
Generation X is the largest generation of immigrants born in the 20th century. As Xers transition from midlife to old age, they will be the practical workers who get the job done while helping Boomers “get real” and not lose themselves in apocalyptic visions. Generation X will be competent and skilled in business and other areas and quick to adapt to new environments and seize opportunities. They will also be pleased to be around.
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF GenX AT THE WORK
The balance between work and life
Employability – Free agents
Fun at work is critical; good relationships are vital
Pragmatic, sceptical and informal
Music is essential; music is the language of expression
Performance feedback from Crave
Independent, empowered and independent
Career strategy: “Grow in Place.”
Accept change and be creative
Do not be impatient with meetings and the process. Get in, do it, then move on to your next project.
Rebel against micro-management
Changes in the job are ordinary and necessary
Cynical and distrustful of institutions
SOME MISCONCEPTIONS REGARDING GenX
Media Myth: Materialistic.
Reality: The first generation expects to make less than their parents (in real terms). They want to get out of debt, so money is essential. However, material wealth and status are not valued.
Media Myth: Whiners.
Reality: Gen Xers face enormous challenges – skyrocketing property costs, school loans, environmental catastrophes, unprecedented healthcare problems, pandemics – yet, most of them are philosophical about the issues that they are inheriting.
Media Myth: “You owe me” attitude.
Their ultimate rewards are freedom and flexibility. They want to have a flexible career. Institutions are suspect.
Media Myth: People are unwilling to work hard.
Reality: GenX thinks it unfair to expect a 70 hour week for 40 hours of payment. GenX is committed to living a whole life. They are committed to having a life beyond work.
Media Myth: Living on the “easy road.”
Reality: In 1950s America, young homeowners could afford their monthly mortgage payments by borrowing 14 % of their income. It takes 40% today. Generation Xers are worried that they won’t be able to afford a home or their children’s education.
SOME RESULTS FROM COLLISIONS BEHIND GenX AND OTHER GENERATIONAL GROUPS
When Seniors (mid-1920s to middle-1940s) come into contact, they think…
Don’t respect experience.
This noise is not music.
You don’t understand what hard work is.
When a Baby Boomer (mid-l940s to the mid-1960s) meets, they think…
Rude – no social skills.
Instead of following procedures, they prefer to do things their way
When a GenX (the mid-1060s – late 1970s) collides, they think…
Do not worry, be happy.
You might find it a bit too intense.
In history, so many generations from such diverse backgrounds have been asked to work side-by-side, cubicle by cubicle. Changes in life expectancy, health, lifestyle, and technology have disrupted the once linear nature of power at work.
All of us are individuals. There are many ways that we all differ in our backgrounds, personalities, values, preferences and styles. It is absurd and pointless to make judgements about these differences, i.e. who is more intelligent. Exploring generational diversity may help to explain and even bridge the sometimes-baffling differences that lie behind our unspoken assumptions or at-odds attitudes.
Be aware: Avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes. Understanding is possible even if there are differences between generations.