The label Generation X emerged in 1991 with the release of Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. The twenty-somethings in his book were characterised as overeducated, underemployed, cynical and disaffected – a ‘lost generation’ living in the shadow of their baby boomer parents, and rebelling against them.
This was the latchkey generation, where rising divorce rates and an increase in both parents working meant many young people were left to try and figure life out for themselves.
Generation X – the last schooled in the old manner, caught between vast waves of boomers and millennials… just think of all the things that have come and gone in our lifetimes, all the would-be futures we watched age into obsolescence—CD, DVD, answering machine, Walkman, mixtape, MTV, video stores, rotary phones.
Much has been written of generations clashing at work. Boomers clinging to privilege and rank. Gen X pushing out 60 year olds while blocking Millennials from rising. Youth fighting tooth and nail for a leg up.
To diffuse possible resentments, it helps to find common ground with other age groups. An understanding of shared values (or experiences) can smooth tensions. It can even lead to mutual gain.
What Generation X And Millennials Have In Common
The age gap between these two cohorts is significant, not vast. Gen Xers range from their mid-30s to early 50s. Millennials are in their 20s and early 30s. As a result there’s much these generations both relate to.
Comfort With Technology
Difficulty Getting First Good Job
Blocked From Advancing Quickly
Importance of Worklife Balance
While Gen X may be equally capable at digital tasks as millennials, they also show a mastery of conventional leadership skills more on par with leaders of the baby boomer generation. That includes identifying and developing new talent at their organizations and driving the execution of business strategies to bring new ideas to reality.
Sixty-seven percent of Gen X leaders are also effective in “hyper-collaboration,” and are working relentlessly to break down organizational silos. Gen X leaders’ strength for working with and through others is enabling them to shape the future of work and generate faster innovation by getting people working together to solve customers’ and their organization’s issues.
Despite their growing influence and responsibilities at work, Gen Xers are most overlooked for promotion and have been the slowest to advance. We found Gen X leaders on average had only 1.2 promotions in the past 5 years, significantly lower than their younger millennial counterparts (1.6 promotions) and more senior baby boomers (1.4 promotions) during the same period of time.
While Gen X leaders are often under-recognized for the critical role they play in leadership, they are typically expected to take on heavy workloads. On average, Gen X leaders have 7 direct reports, compared to only 5 direct reports for millennials. While their advancement rate is slower and their teams larger, Gen X remain loyal employees. Only 37 percent contemplate leaving to advance their careers — five percentage points lower than millennials.
Demonstrating loyalty, a willingness to take on a heavy workload, and a powerful combination of digital and traditional leadership skills, Gen X is producing highly capable leaders that are in danger of being overlooked.
Now is the time to focus on strengthening the skills of Gen X and further developing their broad range of skills.
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