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Understanding GenY


Members of Generation X reached adulthood in the 1980s. According to the Johnsons, however, the effects of their generational signposts have kept many Gen Xers from being entirely “tamed.”

1. Children Became Unfashionable. In stark contrast to the Baby Boomers, Generation X is the smallest generation in recent history. For reasons including parents who worked long hours and a rising divorce rate, many grew up feeling that they were not valued as children, and determined to create a better family life for themselves.

2. The Disillusioning 1970s. Having watched their parents become embittered toward national leaders and struggle through an economic downturn, Gen Xers came to feel they had no one to rely on but themselves.

3. “Sesame Street” Rules. This popular television show, watched by an estimated 77 million Gen X children, taught them that learning should be fun and fast-paced. They have since brought this expectation into the workplace.

4. The Decadent 1980s. Many Gen Xers matured during the boom years of the 1980s, acquired a taste for the good life, and are willing to work for it.

5. Latchkey Kids. Nearly half of Gen Xers had no parent at home after school. Consequently, they became highly independent workers.

6. The 1990-1991 Recession. Despite years of commitment to their companies, many parents of Gen Xers were laid off during the early 1990s. These children reacted with limited loyalty to their own employers.

In order to effectively manage Gen Xers, it is important to recognize that they respect accomplishment over titles, and prioritize work-life balance. They respond well to those who understand what they want out of life. There are ten successful Gen X management tools for managers to consider:

1. Give them individual recognition. Gen Xers appreciate any and all opportunities to stand out.

2. Create collegial teams. Gen Xers welcome support, reciprocity, and well-established team mentalities.

3. Establish a meritocracy. Gen Xers are extremely resentful of patronage and other forms of unfair advantage.

4. Support their lifestyle. Money is important, but Gen Xers also want to have fun at their jobs and be able to have rich family lives.

5. Provide schedule flexibility. Offering telecommuting and other flexible options can be the key to keeping a talented Gen Xer.

6. Help them prepare for their next job. Gen Xers do not expect loyalty from any employer. Instead, they value training that will keep them marketable if and when they need to find another job.

7. Vary their experiences. Gen Xers want to acquire as many experiences as possible to maximize their long-term career potential.

8. Apply “Donald Trump Training.” Gen Xers respond well to being given apprentice tasks and then allowed to sink or swim on their own.

9. Get rid of stupid rules. Partly because they were often alone as children, Gen Xers learned to create their own rules. They have little patience for others’ rules that make no sense to them.

10. Coach office politics. Most Gen Xers lack political savvy and need help to find their way through the corporate jungle.

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