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Managing the Generation X in workforce

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As we all know, individuals born between 1965 & 1978 are referred to as Generation X or Gen-X. They are tech-savvy, pragmatic and competent. As experts attribute, the latchkey experience gained by this generation made them independent and self-managing.

The word often used to describe this generation is ‘cynical’, but in their defense, their work lives started with the era that was, and is, marked by recessions, layoffs, outsourcing, rightsizing and hiring freezes. They are just the product of their environment; though they are loyal, the complete sense of employee citizenship of staying with one company for your whole life is not present as compared to Boomers.

That being said, individuals from Generation X are in the prime of their work lives, so maybe it’s no big surprise that they exceed in utilizing all the resources at their disposal at work.

To sum up, the view of Generation X, they tend to be Informal in their approach, embrace technology quickly (after all, they invented the Internet!) and are a master of work-life balance making time for their family and friends as compared to any other generation.

An executive survey released by the Future STEP division of Korn Ferry stated that Gen X workers are the most connected with this era, contrasted with 23 percent who trust that Baby Boomers and Millennials are the most drawn-in specialists.

Why are Gen X employees so valuable?

The reason why Gen-X employees become so valuable in the organization is that, dissimilar to Baby Boomers, who are moving toward retirement age, and the Millennials, who are quite recently getting their balance in the workforce, Gen X representatives have the best of both worlds: the advantage of being involved and the job know-how, with several gainful years in the workforce still ahead. It is anything but difficult to perceive any reason why they are exceedingly attractive as workers.

The survey conducted by Korn Ferry stated 70% of the respondents in the study believed that Gen X is the most effective managers as compared to Gen Y (5% favorability) or the Boomers (25%favorability) generations.

Members of Gen X are considered major revenue generator for any organization (with 58% of respondents agreeing) and possess traits of high adaptability, problem-solving skills, collaboration and team skills making them the core essence of any functioning organization. However, Gen Xers did score low compared to other generations when it came to displaying executive presence and being cost-effective.

Gen X respondents ranked workplace flexibility as the most important perk (21%) and are more likely to walk away from their current job if flexibility isn’t available (38% versus 33% of Gen Y and 25% of Boomers).

Below is a chart illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of different generations in the workplace:


What is the best way of managing Generation X employees?


  • Gen X employees are pragmatic and results-focused; they are willing to work hard to achieve organizational objectives. However, you need to be specific for the individual outcomes you want them to achieve the collective goal.
  • Gen X employees are straightforward; if they want feedback, they will ask for it. Do not overpraise; with their natural skepticism at play, they might wonder if you have alternative motives.
  • Gen X employees are creative and embrace the phrase “think outside the box”. A great way to motivate them is to give them a challenge for finding new solutions and satisfying their self-actualization needs.
  • Gen X employees live in the moment; the best time to reward them is soon after a reward-worthy accomplishment. They do not trust future promises of rewards.
  • Gen X employees prefer email over any other mode of communication; it provides evidence of the communication (skepticism) and gives them the flexibility to respond at their convenience.

Generation X loves efficiency and fuses it with their love for results and technology. They focus on doing things more efficiently so they can enjoy their free time. They are very flexible, making them great at telecommuting, work-sharing, virtual offices or any other ways to work that do not fall into the standard 8 AM to 5 PM, office-bound setup. Sometimes their cynicism can be a real drag at meetings. They often tend to shoot down ideas. However, they will offer their own suggestions that tend to generate a stronger outcome in such cases.

As the Gen Xers are approaching their mid-life, they are seen to be shifting into leadership roles. As managers, Gen X representatives tend to bring more flexibility and work-life balance into the workplace. However, this might be misinterpreted as a sign that ‘the company is bound to fail’, by Boomers and Millennials. The sharp contrast between these generations is interesting to observe, and analysis of these behavioral patterns will better help companies take a holistic approach to managing their physiologically diverse workforce.

The next article will focus on the generation in limelight –The Millennials.

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