(This Article Continues our series on Inter-Generational Communication.)
As I mentioned in the opening of this series, I consider myself a Xennial, a bridge generation between Generation X and the Millennials. If I had to choose one of the traditional generations, though, based on the year of my birth, I’d be Generation X.
Generation X is often forgotten these days, with up and coming Millennials waging war on the Baby Boomers that are in power now. Like the middle child, it is easy to forget the generation in the sandwiched between the past and future. Generation X is more than okay with this though, and we are happy to do our own thing while the older and younger generations fight for the world.
Generation X grew up as Baby Boomers were starting to come into adulthood, and influence the world. We grew up in the Cold War, and saw the witch hunt that was McCarthyism show its ugly head in politics. Whereas Roy talked about one event for Boomers that defined the generation (the Moon Landing), I am going to talk about three that I think exemplify Generation X:
The first event that exemplifies Gen X is the birth of Atari in 1972. This step led to Pac-Man in 1980, Nintendo in 1983, and all of the advancements that would follow. This meant that a lot of us GenXers were the first generation to experience video games as children, and become amazed by the possibilities of what technology could do. I would argue that our acceptance of cordless phones, personal cell phones, and personal computers in the 90s starts here, with Atari’s release.
The second event is the Watergate Scandal. It shook American politics to its core, and taught most of us in Generation X that we could not trust the government at a very young age. Whereas our Boomer parents would appeal to the authority of government and its duty to protect us, Generation X learned that we needed to take care of ourselves.
Finally, the last event that comes to mind is the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991. Like Roy and the Moon Landing, I remember seeing it on TV with my sisters. The world as we knew it changed. America “won” and the USSR fell.
Generation X is the “latchkey” generation. We got home from school and, unlike Boomers, we typically did not have a parent waiting for us. We had forced independence. We let ourselves in, and it was up to us whether we got our homework done or not.
If you combine this “latchkey” label with the distrust of government and corporations that was created by events like Watergate, the Energy Crisis, and massive layoffs, you land on the fact that self-reliance is the defining trait of Generation X.
This is why you see so many in Generation X job hopping. If your loyalty is to yourself, and not your company, then you move onto the next step when the opportunity presents itself, not when your boss decides it’s time.
Generation X also has a reputation for being much more entrepreneurial than past generations. It’s easy to see why: if you can’t trust anyone else, the best boss you can imagine is yourself.
Though some will take this as a bad thing, the best way to communicate to Generation X is to tell us why it matters to us. Do not tell me it’s for the best for the company, unless you have already told me why I benefit from the company doing well. I’m not interested in actions that make other people rich; I’m interested in what I can do to build my own future.
Whereas my Dad worked for one company for over 30 years and retired with a nice pension, I will never have the opportunity for a pension.
Loyalty is very rarely rewarded in the workplace these days, so doing what is best for the company is nowhere near my top priority. My top priority is doing what’s best for me and my family.
While Roy told us Boomers are all about how it will help him keep the American Dream, I need to know how what you’re asking me to do will help me ACHIEVE my own version of the American Dream, something Gen Xers were not promised.
P.S. I want my MTV!