What Leaders Must Know About Leveraging What Generation X Has to Offer

By Dr. Paul L. Gerhardt, PhD

The generation of employees that directly follows the Baby Boomers generation is commonly termed as “Generation X”. According to researchers, this generation of people were born between the years of 1965 to 1984. Generation X is the in-between generation; sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials, these are the people who bore the brunt of the Great Recession and financial crisis. They make up about 25% of the U.S. population and are currently the ones who stand at almost their peak of career success.

Leaders must not overlook the significance and value that Generation X has to offer. In order to leverage the most out of these employees, it is first a leader’s duty to teach them the history of the organization itself. Since Gen X employees are younger than their Baby Boomer predecessors, they must at first be taught the values and birth story of the organization they work for. This will lead to an increased level of bonding with the company and Generation X will start to feel like a part of the working family.

Next, since there is a whole generation gap, many changes in proverbs and language will have arisen when Generation X employees came to power. These people lived in the time when “cool” became “old school”. More phrases such as “that’s/you’re the bomb” (you are the best), “stupid fresh/rich/crazy” (very cool/rich/crazy), “Awesome” (I like that a lot!) and “bogus” (used to describe something fake) are commonly used by them. It is the duty of the leader to familiarize themselves with such terms and figures of speech. Try to find common meanings in formal and informal conversations to avoid miscommunication with your Generation X employees.

The Generation X employees grew up in a time of hardship both financially and personally. As children, many arrived to empty homes with both parents working or were raised by single parents. Thus, from a young age they were given the opportunities to explore, take on part-time jobs and find themselves. Maybe as a result of this, Generation X employees are very hardworking in the office.
This was also the generation who were quite familiar with step-siblings, “dad’s other family”, or “mom’s ex-husband” type of relations. As a result, Gen X people became skeptical of relationships in general. Having seen the consequences of divorce and tough relations from an early age, Gen Xers are slow to trust and suspicious of institutions. Hence, it is important to show love to these employees and express that they are cared for in the institution. That way, Gen X employees will be loyal and more likely to stay for long term employment.

Generation X are till now probably the most underestimated and forgotten generation among the others. Leaders would do well to remember, that they are the force who are taking place at the top of the hierarchy after baby boomers. They will soon become the oldest at the office and earn the most in the United States. Therefore, it is essential that language and communication issues are addressed as soon as possible to prepare for the near future.

There are currently four generations in the workplace today. Learning how to understand and leverage each aspect of diversity is a wise thing to do. It is difficult to change people. It is much wiser to learn what each person has to offer, then find ways to keep each person happy utilizing their own unique talents, interests, knowledge and skills. Smart leaders know that people truly are their greatest asset. People generally do not quit jobs they love, they quit the bosses who do not understand them and treat them with the kind of respect that they feel they truly deserve.
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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a tenured professor of management. He is a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on investment. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on Amazon.com, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the new upcoming Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. 

Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment. You can get your FREE COPY of the Leadership Handbook by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/LeadershipHandbook


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