The Gen X work problem

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First, let’s be clear: I have never been a big fan of generalizing about generations. I am making a small exception for parts of the argument in this post.

Who is Gen X?

Mid-40s to late-50s now. Molly Ringwald, baby! Kurt Cobain!

And how have they been described?

The big tropes about Gen X are “latchkey kids” and “alt-slackers” or something. But while The New York Times recently called them “a mess,” they also admitted in doing that how Gen X is the only generation that really puts its head down, goes to work, and gets shit done. Word. The Trains Moving Generation!

OK, so late 40s … career peak, maybe? Right?

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Here’s some data on what’s going on with Gen X. Let me bullet point out a little bit for you:

  • In the past five years, the majority of Gen X leaders (66%) had received only one promotion or none at all — significantly fewer than their younger millennial counterparts (52%) and more senior baby boomers (58%) who were more likely to have received two or more promotions during the same period of time.

Seems like X is getting the shaft here. But why?

Shiny Object Syndrome

That would be millennials. If you want to be a “mobile-first” or “digitally-transformed” org, the thinking is often that you need millennials rising up, because they “get” that stuff. So Shiny Object Syndrome is coming home to roost there.

He with the most gold wins

That’s Boomers. They still control the money and the decisions tied to money.

So X is…??

… in this weird middle place professionally, where they’re not tech-shiny but they don’t yet often control the pursestrings, and that weird middle place is driving a lot of the statistics you see listed above.

So what do we do?

Treat people like people and manage them humanely and give them opportunities for growth.

Wait, that might be too logical…

… I guess we find more money for the people actually doing the work and making the trains run while we claim automation will solve everything?

Execs won’t love that, though.

I think the easiest idea is just groom X to take over for Boomers. That would be logical. And don’t fire X as much — it’s hard to get jobs north of 40. Millennials — well, younger millennials — still have time before they’re iced out of the workplace by ridiculous hiring assumptions. Older millennials are almost Gen X anyway (“xillenials”) and that’s a different ballgame.

What’s your take on all this?

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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