What’s Old is New Again. And Again. And Again.

Posted On July 8, 2016

Eleven years ago, in 2005, the Work and Family Researchers Network presented the findings of researcher Paulette R. Gerkovich, who’d studied the views of Generation X professionals. At the time, Gerkovich touted her study as breaking new ground, noting that much of the information available about Generation X prior to her work was “mostly anecdotal” or “gleaned from marketing studies.”

Among her findings:

  • There was a widespread belief that Generation X was not committed to their organizations, but this impression was false.
  • Generation X placed a higher priority on personal and family-related goals than career goals.
  • Generation X might be “less willing to sacrifice, compromise and make trade-offs” than previous generations.
  • Generation X demanded to work flexibly. “Organizations need to reconsider and re-work when, where and how work gets done,” she wrote.

Does any of this sound like anyone we know these days?

Flexible work hours and sites, greater work-life balance and a willingness to change jobs rather than compromise on these issues are all traits that have been ascribed to millennials. There is also a strong perception that they are only as loyal as their mood holds, but data shows that they actually change jobs less than Baby Boomers did early in their careers.

Generation X was millennial before millennial was cool.

They were thought to be slackers in the same way that millennials are thought to carry a sense of entitlement. But because many Gen-Xers grew up in families where both parents worked or in homes broken by divorce, they developed an independent streak. And because millennials have grown up in an era of instant access to information (the Internet) and communications (cell phones), they expect their information, communication and gratification to be instantaneous.

So what does that mean for how millennials will ultimately be viewed as they continue in their careers? Like Generation X, we’ll likely see that they are merely products of their environment. And like Generation X, we may find that many of our perceptions about them don’t necessarily hold true.

Categories: Generation X, Work