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Full disclosure: I am a member of Generation X who realizes that my generation has a lot to learn from Millennials!
How many times have you been in the middle of a debate or spirited conversation with your small group from church or around the water cooler at work, and you hear the expression, “There’s just no explaining to so-and-so, it’s got to be generational!” Sound familiar? Read on…
I find the study of generational characteristics super intriguing!
A generation is usually defined as a 20 year period of time. In today’s society, there are four generations alive and kicking:
- Traditionalists (born between 1900-1945)
- Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964)
- Generation X (born between 1965-1980)
- Millennials (born between 1981-2000)
You can read all you want about the Traditionalists (my grandparents) and the Baby Boomers (my parents), but I want to focus on the Gen-Xer’s and the Millennials. I happen to be a card-carrying member of Generation X based on my birthdate, family status (I’ve been married for many years and have a child of my own), have been in the workplace for 2 decades and have lived on my own since my college graduation. However, because I’m on the younger end of the range, I see some Millennial-type characteristics in myself as well.
Let’s stop here for a moment. Millennials take a lot of rap for some of the more pronounced differences they exhibit compared to previous generations. They sometimes even get make fun of. Truth told, I often feel “old” standing next to a Millennial, but when you stop and think about it, maybe I’m just feeling jealous…
You see, I kind of yearn to be Millennial-esque sometimes! Instead of categorizing Millennials as kids who grew up getting participation medals for their contributions to sports teams, or people who don’t feel comfortable working a job that doesn’t feel meaningful to them, or who may not strike out on their own as young as previous generations, take an honest look at the really healthy and positive mindset Millennials can share with us!
By learning the “why” behind the way people behave, we can better understand and learn from them!
Using the chart I referenced earlier in this post, from www.gsbcolorado.org, here are some (there is A LOT more information on the source document!) of the attributes of Gen-Xer’s and Millennials:
Some of the influences of Generation X are dual income families and single parents, being latchkey kids, the fall of the Berlin Wall, women’s liberation, and increased divorce rates. They are the first generation that may not do as well financially as their parents did.
Millennials are influenced by a child focused world, school shootings, terrorist attacks, 9/11, and AIDS. They were the first generation of children with schedules.
Members of Generation X value balance, entrepreneurialism, and informality.
Millennials value extreme fun, personal attention and technology.
General attributes of Generation X include adaptability, independence, confidence, may be angry but don’t know why, results-oriented, and crave a work/life balance.
Millennials’ attributes include quasi-focused ambition, attachment to their parents and mobile devices, fiercely independent, diversity-focused, and has friends in their workplace.
Workplace View on Time:
When it comes to work, Generation X is project-oriented and expects to get paid to get the job done.
Millennials, however, are effective workers but are out the door when it’s 5pm.
View on Work/Life Balance:
I’ll quote directly from the chart on this one!
Generation X: “Because of parents who are Boomers workaholics, they focus on clearer balance between work and family. Do not worry about losing their place on the corporate team if they take time off.”
Millennials: “Not only balance with work and life, but balance with work, life and community involvement and self- development. Flex-time, job sharing, and sabbaticals will be requested more by this generation.”
The Generation X communication style is direct and immediate.
Millennials communicate electronically and use words that convey politeness, positivity, motivation, and humor.
In my humble opinion, the Millennials’ flexibility of thinking outside the box is super appealing to a Gen-Xer like me!
Could we possibly reach a happy medium, especially for people in my age group? Think about it: The fact that we are happily married, parents, established in our chosen careers, and homeowners keep us firmly rooted in Generation X. But what if we relax a little bit and not let our responsibilities equal burdens, but rather let our responsibilities equal identity?
Consider homeownership, for example. Purchasing a home is a proud moment! However, most of us have a little thing called a mortgage in exchange for “owning” a home. We can choose to view our mortgage payment as a drudgery that ties us to our employer. Conversely, we can work and make our mortgage payment like happy little Gen-Xer’s (that’s what we do, after all!), all the while opening our home to friends and family for spontaneous hospitality opportunities, or “hygge,” like our Millennial friends! It kind of makes the work and mortgage payments more tolerable, doesn’t it? On this note, click here to learn how to add a bit of “hygge” to your family life!
See where I’m going with this?
Another example would be the Millennial’s reputation for being a bit selective when it comes to settling on an employer. Friends, this is not necessarily bad. Wouldn’t we all like to feel good about the involvement our employers have in the community and the initiatives it makes to promote health and well-being among the staff? I would! The difference is that if you’re a Gen-X’er and are already on your own with a family who is depending on you and bills that need to be paid, it may not be in the realm on possibility to sit on the workplace sidelines until you find this perfect employer. Here’s an idea: YOU can initiate a positive change within your current organization! You can propose starting a wellness committee with some colleagues or your organization sponsoring a charity in a fundraiser or…fill-in-the-blank! The possibilities are endless!
The truth of the matter is that there are really valuable characteristics in each and every generation, and if we take the time to glean the good, we can truly enrich our own lives, regardless of the generation you most identify with!