Gen Xers enter the spotlight FINALLY… as the villains?
I feel bad for Gen Xers sometimes. I, as a Millennial, am often portrayed in a less-than-positive light. But at least people acknowledge my existence.
Gen Xers are rarely even acknowledged.
It’s not because they don’t have value; their cohort is just so small that their generational needs and trends haven’t been that significant overall.
But as Boomers are edging into retirement Generation X is finding itself in positions of leadership and power in alarming numbers. Alarming for Millennials, that is.
For the first time, people are starting to pay attention to the ways Gen Xers like to work and lead. And the Millennial generation is really struggling to connect with this group, more than other ages.
Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation have become more accepting and even encouraging of the youngsters in their midst. Mentoring programs are springing up in companies everywhere, professional development and career advancement are being given serious consideration, and the pros and cons of various flexible work arrangements are being weighed. Progress.
But, as a whole, that tiny lost generation between my own and the Baby Boomers is not so enthusiastic. In the past, the Gen Xers distaste for Millennials didn’t matter much. But with the growing numbers of this generation in leadership, this animosity is becoming more pronounced.
Generation X is simply too close in age, and circumstance, to the Millennial generation. This closeness in age makes it harder to step back, see the difference, and understand it.
Those of us who were close in age to one of our siblings understand this problem. Given only a year of separation between myself and my brother, I had a terrible time understanding why life could be so different for him than for me. But with my baby sister, who was 10 years younger, it seemed perfectly natural that her upbringing would be different to mine.
Generation X and Y (the Millennials) appear to be struggling from this same proximity problem. They simply don’t see enough of a difference between them to warrant the complete difference in experience and expectation.
So how do we fix it?
- Personal connection. I didn’t understand why my brother had such a different upbringing, but because I knew him well and we were friends I was better able to deal with it. I did not resent him, nor he I, and we learned to use those differences to our advantage. These two close generations can do the same as they get to know each other on a personal level. It’s hard to dislike someone once you see how amazing they are.
- Be aware of the problems. Take the time and energy to understand where the problems lie in your company between generations. When you understand the problems, you can make intentional decisions to minimize these problems and create a stronger workforce.
- Lose the labels. I spent this whole article talking about Gen X and Millennials, and you likely went through a mental list checking off the people who match these traits. It is not helpful. Try to interact with people outside of the label they supposedly have, and you will start to find the labels were a big part of the problem.