Clowns to the left of me, jokers on the right…
If you’ve been on any social media channel recently, you’ve no doubt seen the graphic from CBS news describing the generational differences in the workplace. The content isn’t new or even that useful, but the reason you’ve seen it is because whoever designed the graphic described the Baby Boom Generation, then went directly to the Millennial Generation and completely left out Generation X. An entire generation was left off the graphic and social media had a hay day about it. As a member of the last half of GenX, I’m not insulted. In fact, I’m used to it. It didn’t offend me, but it highlighted something really interesting to me: Two Generations Can’t Get Along and We’re Stuck In The Middle.
Being bookended by two of the biggest generations in history has it’s advantages though. Chief among them, we get to be objective observers in a fight raging in American workplaces. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
Every Generation Needs A Generation Who Are Lazy And Entitled
Before it was settled (unfairly by the way) that millennials are lazy and entitled, it was us, GenX who had that honor. Before us, yeah it was the Boomers. They called us the M-TV Generation because, presumably, that’s all we did was watch M-TV. When the Baby Boom Generation was coming of age, it was said that they needed to “get a haircut and get a real job.” If you listen closely to Millenials, you’ll hear them describe the next generation, Gen Z or Post-Millenials that they’re lazy and entitled. It’s a fact of life. Your generation will always be better and had it harder than the generation coming of age. It strikes me as funny that everything being said of Millenials was said of Boomers first. It wasn’t true then and it’s not now.
Millennials Get A Bad Wrap
We blame them for spending too much time on their phones. Cool, so does EVERYONE.
“Everyone got a trophy” It’s funny because they didn’t ask for them and they were given by the very people now complaining about them. There’s also quite a bit of science out there that says rewarding effort rather than outcomes is the best way to develop kids with grit and persistence.
“They job hop and never stay anywhere.” BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. The boomers won’t retire and Xer’s won’t be able to so in order to simply make a living, they have to move. Keep in mind they have more student loan debt than any generation in history so it seems like they have unrealistic expectations for income, it’s because their lenders have unrealistic expectations of loan payments.
We have in this generation, the most technically skilled and best-educated workforce we’ve ever seen. So much so that managers don’t know how to handle it so it becomes easier to just write them off as difficult. It’s untrue and unfair and companies that do so will be left holding the bag.
Millenials NEED More Compassion Toward Baby Boomers
If it seems like you’re co-workers in their late 50s and early 60s are always tired and always cranky, maybe we should examine why. I clearly see it with my own parents. Up until recently, my Millenial brother was still living in their basement and my 85-year-old grandmother is aging just around the corner. Their parents are living longer and their children are staying at home leaving them as the sandwich generation; still raising kids while caring for aging parents. They had intended this to be the best years of their lives but they’re running themselves into the ground burning the candle at both ends. The patience that Millennials demand for themselves has to go both ways.
Just like I’m happy to be excluded from the CBS graphic, I’m happy to be excluded from the conflict, but since we’re stuck in the middle, GenX has a pretty good view of both sides and sees that neither is right and neither is wrong. Neither is difficult so much as they’re just different but if we work to understand those differences, the difficulty is diminished.