frustrated man

Many of those identified as Generation X were also called “Latchkey children”.  Forced to fend for themselves due to growing up in a single family home or one in which both parents worked, they became fiercely independent.  When it came time to enter the work force job markets were weak, companies were downsizing daily and the economy was suffering from recession.  

The Gen-Xer’s need for independence often conflicts with Baby Boomer managers, who tend to favor a more closely supervised work environment.  At the same time, Gen-Xers also operate differently than millennials, who prefer working collaboratively.

Generation X holds a unique view when it comes to changing jobs.  Baby Boomers are traditionally grateful to have a job that pays the bills, and their resumes normally show just a handful of jobs. Millennials are on the other end of the spectrum, viewing multiple job changes as the norm rather than a negative. Generation X workers are not against changing positions, but do value financial security and job stability very highly.

A shift in family values has had an impact on how Gen-Xers view the workplace and their family lives.  Fathers, the main bread winners among Boomers, worked long hours to provide for their families. It was not uncommon for them to spend very little time at home.  Gen-Xers desire more flexible schedules and tend to use their professions as a way to enrich their family lives, which is their main focus.

How do organizations keep the valuable Generation X work force engaged?

  • Variety – Gen-Xers seek opportunities to learn new skills within a flexible corporate structure. Because of their independent nature, you may find them seeking employment elsewhere if their innovative ideas aren’t given a proper hearing. As a whole, Generation X is pretty tech savvy, so access to the latest technology at work is a big plus for them.
  • Open Communication – Encourage debate and varying opinions as a way to generate ideas. Gen-Xers feel more effective when problems are discussed openly and differing opinions can be given without judgment.  They also appreciate honest feedback, so keep these independent employees updated on a regular basis.
  • Room to Grow – With Generation X at 45 million strong, they are not enough to replace the 75 million retiring Baby Boomers. Millennials will have to move up the corporate ladder to help pick up that slack, possibly making Gen-Xers feel as if they lack the opportunity to make their mark in the work place. This is even more reason to look to Generation X for growth and advancement, proving they are more than just placeholders for millenials.

Michael Klein is a premier writer and speaker on all aspects of human capital.  As VP Operations for KDS Staffing, Inc., he has achieved industry-leading success. Michael was awarded, The New York State Small Business Growth Award; presented by Governor George Pataki.  Additionally, Michael has successfully grown and sold multiple firms. If you or your organization would like to discuss hiring needs, contact Michael at 646-350-3015 or