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Generation X Doesn’t Like You

And who can blame them?!

I certainly can’t. I would be irritated as hell with the work environment if I were a Gen X’er because they are supposed to be entering the earning years of their life (the one where you bank your retirement, put your kids through college and pay off your mortgage) and it is getting turned upside down by a variety of factors. Harvard Business Publishing throws some of these out:

  • Most corporate career paths narrow at the top
  • And then there are those pesky Gen Ys.
  • Xers are the most conservative cohort in today’s workforce
  • Boomer colleagues are annoying
  • Your own parenting pressures are at a peak

And this is why I am so indifferent about generational differences.

Wait, that’s not a good enough explanation.

Let me try this:

Every generation goes through relatively similar career steps. The fact that Generation Y is starting their careers differently than Generation X, the Boomers, and the multitudes of generations before that is not remarkable. It is something we should be aware of the same way employers were aware of issues with previous generations. The paradigm shift isn’t ever going to be to cater to Gen Y until both recruiting and retention of Gen Y becomes a major priority. And catering to Gen Y right now is only really helping on the recruiting side (not necessarily on the retention side). I really think a lot of corporate policies will start focusing on retaining Gen X people. This will be good for Gen Y but it won’t be focused on keeping them happy yet.

Okay, that probably isn’t adequate either. Let me try this:

My great-grandfather didn’t finish high school. He spent his entire life in agriculture.

My grandfather finished high school, went to the military and stayed in the same industry as he was trained in for most of his life.

My father finished high school, took specialty classes, and tried several careers before settling in his industry.

I finished high school and college, and have tried several different industries so far. I am married and we are talking children so at some point in my future, settling down (whether in job function or industry) is inevitable for almost all generations.

And when generations settle (and Gen Y generally will), their needs become much more similar to previous generations. People get more conservative, crave more security, have a distrust for both older and younger generations and ultimately their families and their well-being takes priority over freedom, movement, and flexibility. Obligations are the great equalizer.

This is the road ahead Generation Y and the road you have just traveled Boomers. I would advise you to not throw these concerns to the wayside for some sort of short term gain. Because it will all come back to this.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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