Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

"Thanks, Kiddo!": A Survival Guide for Professional Generation Xers

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

"Thanks, Kiddo!": A Survival Guide for Professional Generation Xers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

"Thanks, Kiddo!" That disparaging "good job" from managing Baby Boomers to rising Generation Xers only works to personify generational gaps and stereotyping in the professional workplace. Any Gen Xer who has experienced the "slacker, lacking work ethic" (and other) stereotypes pressed down from managing Baby Boomers may wonder where these concepts originated and why they endure. Understanding that the X Generation may not be able to overcome some of these negative thoughts overnight, the following advice, from one Xer to another, is offered: (1) Communicate, (2) Listen to Yourself, (3) Practice Patience, and (4) Network.

INTRODUCTION

"A successful person is one who can build a foundation with the bricks that others throw at him, " -- David Brinkley

"Thanks, Kiddo!" That disparaging "good job" from managing Baby Boomers to rising Generation Xers only works to personify generational gaps and stereotyping in the professional workplace. Anyone curious about generational differences will be bombarded with exasperated cries from Baby Boomers complaining that Gen Xers do not know how to work, Generation Xers talk too fast, and these kids lack respect and personal skills. A surprised Gen Xer who has experienced these (and other) stereotypes in the workplace may wonder where these concepts originated and why they endure.

GENERATION X

Generational conflicts at work are not a new construct. Thomas F. Stroh wrote in 1971 on problems between entering "long-haired hippie" (p. 11) subordinates and their experienced, established older managers. While the terms had not yet been coined, Mr. Stroh was referring to conflicts between the Veteran Generation, comprised of individuals born between 1922 and 1943, and the Baby Boomers, those born between 1943 and 1960 (Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B., 2000).

Frustrated Veteran managers were quoted as saying that a young Boomer employee "seems more interested in outside activities" than work and that a "young, well-- educated man... seems to lose interest quickly" (Stroh, 1971, p. 13) without constant incentives. Surprisingly, these complaints are very similar to those that Boomers often cite about Generation X employees, those born between 1961 and 1980 (Zemke et al., 2000).

Baby Boomers criticize at length that Generation X employees, while savvy with technology, lack certain necessary work traits including motivation, communication skills, and dedication (Zemke et al., 2000). Comments vary in extremity, from tolerance and a general understanding to intolerance and anger. For example, a respected Boomer colleague stated that our generations have different views of work ethics and that "Gen Xers are pursuant of a work-life balance." On the other hand, another Boomer was quoted as saying that Gen Xers are "unmotivated, unskilled spoiled brats who watch the [clock] and never miss a chance to take time off work" (Adams, 2000, p. 3). As Mr. Adams notes in support of Gen Xers, no one would dare make similar hostile statements about minorities, females, or the disabled (2000).

Contrary to some of these beliefs, Xers want to - and like to -- work, but not at the expense of their families, friendships, and freedom. Gen Xers ("The Latchkey Generation") remember absent and often divorced parents working themselves to sleep "for the company" or to earn the corner office with a window - the epitome of Boomer Success. Unfortunately, we also watched the recession of the 1980's as many rising Boomers fell prey to corporate downsizing and restructuring - a pink slip was the only thanks for their dedication "to the company." Recalling these events, Gen Xers are determined not to allow themselves to be swooned by corporate America's promises of promotions and power - these enticements did not help our parents and we are hesitant to believe that they will help us.

As the children of Boomers, Gen Xers are entering the work force and establishing themselves as educated professionals. …

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