Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post called “Baby Booming to a Millennial Beat in the Workplace.” In that article, I touched on some of the generational issues facing Baby Boomers as they finish out their careers in an evolving workplace that is catering to a much different cultural mindset than the one they started their careers with. I also remarked that Gen-Xers were stuck in the middle of these two generations, and frankly, it would seem we are confused, not to mention caught in a no-win scenario.
Either we become like the “traditional” establishment that is so out of fashion these days or we hang on like crazy to a cool, hip vibe that we really don’t feel anymore because, let’s face it, we’ve been waiting around for a long time for a promotion train that has been real slow in coming. And we’ve been around just long enough to see trends come and trends go.
It’s true. Gen-Xers are the proverbial middle child and now we’re middle-aged too.
We too lost money in the stock market recessions of late because we trusted in those 401ks everyone told us were so wonderful for us to have, we’ve had inflation hitting us in the face at every turn, and we had to find jobs in the 80s and 90s recessions that were pretty bad in comparison with the one that hit in 2008. Then we were told to sit and wait longer…and longer…for those corporate promotions because Boomers couldn’t afford to retire, while we have watched our companies bend over backward for the Millennial generation who doesn’t believe it should have to wait for anything. We’ve seen pay freezes and diminished bonuses, skyrocketing health care, bursting housing bubbles, and layoffs, layoffs, layoffs.
But what do we do? Apparently, say nothing.
At a recent networking event I attended, I brought some of this up to other fellow Gen-Xers, thinking we could all whine a bit together, and the best response I received was a shrug.
Really? A shrug? Best I can tell most of us still have a good 25+ years of work ahead of us and it is us, not the Millennials, who will be (or should be) leading companies next…right? So shouldn’t workplace culture be more concerned about what we are looking for?
Perhaps in theory, but I am starting to worry that at this point, we will just take whatever we’re given.
In an online article from back in 2012, some researcher was quoted as saying that nobody was studying Gen-X in the workplace because, frankly, there just isn’t “much interest” in them. Honestly, I can see why. The silence is deafening.
Over the past few months, we have been posting on the era of promotions that is about to begin, and we have been running a series called “The Road to Promotion.” These are good, really good, indicators for Gen-Xers who have been waiting in the wings, but the competition for these openings will be strong and many Gen-Xers are going to be stuck thinking they will get the job because they “deserve” it and have been waiting for it. The awakening will be rude.
Listen. There is no single file line up the corporate ladder anymore (if there ever really was one), and innovation is perceived to be young and fresh. (And as my HR friends tell me, “perception is ALWAYS reality.”)
So it is past time that Gen-Xers remind companies that there are more than just two generations vying for attention in the workplace. And that our idea of culture might be a little different. If we don’t, that promotion train just might pass us by.