Generation X – those born between 1965-1979 are the middle child of current generational studies. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are seen as passé and all the attention is on Millennials (1980-1994) or Generation Z (1995-present) instead of Gen X even though they represent over 20% of the workforce.
Generation Xers are predominately people in their 40s and were heavily influenced by the social changes that occurred during their childhood. Gen X is the first generation that grew up with technology, one of the factors that make them fans of multi-tasking.
When I first started presenting about Gen X coming to college, they were known as the “baby busters.” While I was aware that, compared to the Baby Boomers, historians labeled them as much more self-oriented and materialistic, what I saw as their key distinguishing trait was the element of choice. Gen Xers had a choice in far more categories than any generation before them: no longer were Prell and Breck the only shampoos, pink and red the only nail colors and one license plate design issued per state. Gen X had aisles full of toothpaste brands, thousands of credit card options and a proliferation of media content.
And with this choice came the desire to have it “my way,” a characteristic that earned them their negative connotations. Gen X was the first generation to be lavished with recognition and praise (making them cynical), and also the first group who wanted to postpone commitment (why decide when there are so many choices and something better may come along?!). This was the first group that grew up with both parents working, making them more independent and interested in autonomy.
Generation Xers hold many of the up-and-coming leadership roles in our organizations and society. Keep their perspective in mind if you are working with or for someone in the 38-52 age range. Provide options, independence, lots of information in little bite-sized pieces, clear procedures and praise!