Generation X stands out from other generations in a few ways. This generation is an integral part of the current work force, but both the previous generation (Baby Boomers) and the next generation (Generation Y) are significantly larger. Because they are sandwiched between these two, Generation X will never be the largest generation at work, but they still have a significant influence.
Generation X is the first generation in which their parents either both worked outside of the home in large numbers or were raised in single-parent households. This had a lot to do with the fact that divorce was becoming more common in the Western world and more women started to work outside the home. These children thus grew up a lot more independent and are known in the United States as “latch-key kids” because they would come home from school to an empty house. They started their school years without computers, but many finished their schooling with computers so they were raised in the transition phase from the information to the digital age.
This generation also grew up during significant events that shaped our world today. Some examples are the Cold War, the Challenger disaster, Chernobyl, the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela.
Generation X is known for being very entrepreneurial, partly because of their cynical attitude towards large companies who failed their parents, and partly because of their independence, adaptability, and flexibility. Their desires are focused on the smaller scale; for example, they want to save their neighborhood, not the world. Typically, Generation X marry later in life, sometimes after cohabitating, and are quicker to divorce. They see values as a relative concept but they have a strong belief that people should be open-minded and tolerate everyone.
-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.
Hello everyone. It’s your baby-boomer, Catherine, again. I’d like to share with you my experience of what it’s like to be the parent of children from the Gen X generation, and working with a Gen Xer.
As with most of our generations, there are varying dates of when the generation started and when it ended, so let’s make it simple and go with the mid 1960’s as the start of the Gen Xer’s, ending in the early 1980’s.
Parenting Gen Xers
I’m the proud parent of two Gen Xers. My son Mitch is 45 years old, and my daughter Katie is 42. Just because they are sandwiched between two of the largest generations, don’t underestimate the Gen X generation! As I researched generations and was writing a course on generations, (“DeCoding American Generations”), it became clear that my children shared in the experiences of this richly gifted generation.
This generation is often referred to as the “latchkey generation.” My children, Mitch and Katie, were the typical grammar school Gen Xers because I was one of those divorce statistics. As a single mom, they came home from school every day with their house key in hand. They learned responsibilities, became very independent, and became street smart.
The Gen Xers were the first to introduce the other generations to the concept of work-life balance. Both Mitch and Katie place a high value on quality of life. Over the years, both of them have moved from higher paying jobs to lesser paying jobs in order to improve the quality of their family life.
What I’ve learned working with Gen Xers
As a “Boomer,” my greatest learning from the Gen Xers is the importance of work-life balance. In my current position at ASCP, I’ve had the privilege of working with people of this gifted generation. They not only walk the talk of work life balance; they encourage others to do the same. I’ve listened to their stories and they’re not afraid to change jobs or careers, which is so different from their Baby Boomer parents. It is often written that they acquired a cynical attitude toward corporate America because of the diminished employee loyalty their parents experienced. However, the Gen Xer took the high road and overcame the fear of changing jobs. They took what they learned through their childhood and developed courage, the kind of courage that it takes to receive feedback and be the forever continual learner. I’ll always be grateful to co-workers like Carroll, who would walk by my office at 5:30 at night “tapping her watch.” She sent the Gen X message that life is about more than just work.
-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.