By Jenn Riggle
My colleagues jokingly call me “JennX” because I’m one of those angry Gen Xers who’s tired of hearing how Baby Boomers have changed the world. But recently, I’ve decided to change my tune – and I’m not alone.
After being in the workforce for nearly 20 years, Gen Xers are starting to find their voice. A recent Gen X meme suggested that we’re selling out, but I like to think that we’re growing up. Maybe it’s because we’re hitting middle age and joining the ranks of middle management. Maybe it’s because we’re going to be the ones who will manage the 78 million “Trophy Kids” entering the workforce. Or maybe it’s because Gen Xers want to make sure we don’t grow up to be managers like the Baby Boomers.
After living in the shadow of the Boomers for decades, I have to admit I felt a sense of dread when reading about the new media darlings, the Baby Boomers’ kids. They’ve been described as pampered, difficult to manage and constantly questioning the status quo. Come to think of it, this sounds a lot like what the Boomers were saying about Generation X nearly 20 years ago. For better or worse, the Boomers have helped raise both generations – whether at home or in the office.
As much as it frustrates us, Gen X has to accept that it will never get the attention we so arguably deserve and that we’ll forever be sandwiched between these two, self-absorbed generations.
But instead of whining, we need to seize the day and accept the challenge of helping to shape the next generation. I was excited to see a Gen Yer talk positively about what she’s learned from Gen Xers – so they’re willing to listen. In fact, we may be uniquely qualified to manage this new generation, as Tammy Erickson reported in her blog, “Why Generation X Has the Leaders We Need Now.”
We’ve always been team players and now we have an opportunity to lead large teams of idealistic 20-somethings and give them the training they need to become future leaders. With Boomers’ retirement right around the corner, Gen Xers have an opportunity to make the workplace a kinder, gentler place and to become the mentors we sought in our 20s.
We can teach our younger colleagues what we’ve learned, things like:
- In a down economy, having a job is key ? even if it isn’t the one you want.
- Don’t let your job title define your identity.
- Find the joy in your work, rather than getting embroiled in office politics.
- Don’t get frustrated that your colleagues aren’t like you. Instead, find out what motivates them.
Robin Williams inspired a group of students in the great teen movie The Dead Poets Society to be brave and think outside of the box. I urge Gen Xers to do the same.