The Gen X Manager – Need To Know…

Posted On January 14, 2016

You’ve by now read plenty of advice in this space on how to adjust to a millennial workplace. Millennials have surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the workplace, and changes are being made to accommodate them as Gen X and Baby Boomer managers seek to retain the best and brightest among them.

But even through more than one-third of the workforce is now made up of millennials, according to the Pew Research Center, that still leaves two-thirds that isn’t. While millennials are ambitious and upwardly mobile, many of them are working for Generation X managers.

And so, millennials have had to do some adjusting of their own.

Fortune magazine offered these tips for millennials to understand and work with their Gen X managers:

  • Gen Xers are independent. Don’t be offended by their desire to work alone.
  • Gen Xers are results-oriented and entrepreneurial thinkers and tend to be more hands-off. Don’t be surprised if they don’t tell you every step necessary to get the job done, and expect you to figure out some of it yourself.
  • Gen Xers aren’t terribly quick with praise. This means, however, that when praise does come your way from them, it’s well-earned.
  • Gen Xers are naturally skeptical. Don’t take it personally when they try to find the holes in your big idea.

While acknowledging these are generalizations, writer Mira Zaslove traces them back into the era in which most Gen Xers were raised. They had a lot of freedom to roam – they were the latchkey kids, remember? – and they weren’t tethered to their parents by technology like cell-phone-carrying, GPS-tracked millennials.

They didn’t get a lot of participation trophies as kids, either. While millennials, often encouraged by frequent praise while growing up, might feel free to share their opinions even as a recently hired employee, they should understand that their Gen X managers may feel employees need to pay their dues before expecting their opinions to carry weight.

Yes, the workplace is changing. But that doesn’t mean you should expect your Generation X managers to suddenly tear down the office walls and morph into gushing fountains of millennial praise. They didn’t get a trophy until they won something, and it’s likely that they’ll expect the same of you.

Categories: Generation X, Generation Y / Millennials, Workplace