This is the fourth post in a series about how to manage the four distinct generations currently in the workforce. We introduced them in the first post: the Greatest Generation, born before 1945; the Baby Boomers, born from 1946–64; Generation X, born from 1965–81 and the Millennials, born from 1982–95.
This entry will be a little more personal, since I’m a member of this generation. On the plus side, I can vouch for all of the characteristics of our generation!
Generation X, or the Xers for short, tend to be summed up by one word: cynical. It’s not an unfair characterization, but there’s good reason for it: the beginnings of their work lives were, and continue to be, marked by recessions, layoffs, outsourcing, “rightsizing” and hiring freezes. The notion of staying with one company for your whole working life bit the dust just as the Xers were joining the workforce.
A brief sketch of Generation X:
- They tend to be very informal in their approaches to just about everything: clothing, communications, rules of any sort.
- They tend to embrace technology very quickly and value being “early adopters” of technology. This is the generation that invented the whole dot-com thing, after all.
- Work-life balance is vital for Generation X; they value free time and time for family and friends more than any other generation.
- And yes, they/we tend to be very cynical. But we like to think we’re humorous about it!
Now, what are the best ways to manage members of this generation?
- Xers are very pragmatic and results-focused. You show them a compelling mission statement and their response is likely to be: “That’s great, but what do I need to make happen?” Be ready to answer that question with specific outcomes you want.
- If an Xer wants feedback, they’ll ask for it. Be specific about what they’ve done well and what they need to improve on. Don’t overdo the praise; with their natural skepticism, they won’t buy effusive compliments and will instead wonder what you’re trying to sell them.
- The best way to motivate a member of this generation is to say: “Do this your way” or “Find a new way to do this.” This is the generation that embraced the phrase “think outside the box.”
- The best time to reward a member of this generation is soon after a reward-worthy accomplishment. They don’t tend to trust rewards promised for the future.
- Email is the preferred method of communication for Generation X; it allows for a paper trail (skepticism) and is asynchronous, meaning they can respond to it on their time (flexibility).
- This generation loves efficiency; that’s tied into their loves for results and technology. And besides, the more efficiently they can do things, the more they can enjoy their free time.
- They’re very flexible, which makes them great at telecommuting, flex-time, work-sharing, virtual offices or any of the ways to work that don’t fall into the typical 8-to-5, office-bound mold.
- Their independence and skepticism make them naturals at creative problem-solving.
- Generation X views work as a contract that could expire at any time. This doesn’t exactly bode well for company loyalty; after all, they’re not expecting any loyalty from their company.
- Their cynicism can be a real drag at meetings. These are the people who will tend to shoot down your ideas. However, they’ll often offer their own suggestions and you’ll likely find that their input results in a stronger outcome.
As they approach middle age, Generation X is shifting into leadership roles. As managers, Gen Xers tend to bring more flexibility and work-life balance into the workplace. However, this might not be received so well by Boomers and members of the Greatest Generation, who might see such steps as a sign that the company is bound to fail. The contrast between these generations will be very interesting to watch.
Next time, we’ll look at the generation that everyone’s talking about, the Millennials.
If you have any questions or comments about the series, so far, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments! Johanna Miller – Casino SpieleShare this Post