Tag Archives: Gen X

Understanding Gen Z: They Are Not Young Millennials

If you haven’t noticed, Gen Z has arrived and they need some understanding! They are the “newest” generation to enter the workplace and are soon to pass Millennials as the largest generation with 1/3 of the world’s population. In the U.S., Gen Z accounts for more than 25% of the people and is the most diverse generation in history.

Now Gen Z is making its presence known in the workplace. Gen Z members were born between 1997 and 2015, and they have never known a world without the internet and most smartphones. Many Gen Z children often played with their parents’ and grandparents’ smartphones or tablets and got their first phones around the age of 10. They have grown up in a hyper-connected world, and the smartphone is their preferred method of communication. On average, they spend 3 hours a day on their mobile devices. Gen Z chooses to be entertained more on YouTube or TikTok than on any other social media platform.

For the past decade, the workplace and marketplace focused on understanding and adapting to Millennials (1981-1996). Millennials changed the world of work while inspiring, sometimes heated conversations about generational differences across the globe. Millennials helped drive flexibility, collaboration, purpose, and new leadership styles in the workplace significantly—and now it’s essential to understand the differences.

Optimistic Millennials – Pragmatic Gen Z

Optimistic Millennials grew up during the 1990 economic boom. Like their self-esteem building Baby Boomer parents, they see the world through a bright lens. Baby Boomer parents wanted to make their children’s lives more comfortable and better. As a result, Millennials are seen as entitled and overly sensitive, wanting a trophy for just showing up and occupying space.

On the other hand, Gen Zers grew up amid the Great Recession. Thanks to their tough-loving, skeptical Gen X parents, they view the world with a pragmatic, independent, survival mode lens. Also, Gen Z witnessed Millennials struggling to pay back their college student loans. Gen Z took notice, and they are earners and savers.

Collaborative Millennials – Competitive Gen Z

When Millennials were in their formative years of learning, the Boomer mantra “Teamwork makes the Dream Work” prevailed. Boomers held collaboration held to the highest standard. Collective group projects and after school team sports were the norm in schools. In the workplace, Millennials have a more collaborative mindset, with everyone pitching in and working together

In contrast, Gen Z likes to win! Raised by their Gen X parents, they learned the mantra, “In life, there are winners and losers, and if you don’t win, you lose!” Their competitive nature applies to almost everything, from sports to school-work. Additionally, Gen Z lives in an increasingly competitive educational environment. Technology allows for online grading portals, which give frequent updates on the Gen Z student’s academic performance. In the past, students sometimes had to wait weeks or longer to receive a test grade. Now, they get frustrated if they can’t access their scores within hours of finishing an exam—and often, so do the parents.

It is not surprising that 72% of Gen Z said they are competitive with those doing the same job in the workplace. This generation is highly independent and wants to be evaluated on its own merits, not their team members. That said, they prefer individual tasks over team tasks.

Work-Life Balance – Human Rights, Equity and Diversity

Gen X tried to attain a work-life balance, but the big push to end the traditional 9 to 5 workplace came from the Millennial. Millennials are not motivated by working hard for 40 years or more and then retiring to enjoy life. They are inspired by the idea of blending their work life and their personal life. Millennials want a healthy mix of time, achieving professional goals, and time pursuing personal goals.

Gen Z also wants work-life balance, but their broader focus is on issues that affect them, their communities, and their future. They care about human rights, equality, and diversity in their workplace. In a recent survey, 83% of Gen Z said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is essential when choosing an employer.

Millennials Seek Work Fulfillment – Gen Z’s Financial Focus

Millennials are known as the purpose-driven generation seeking jobs that offer a strong sense of meaning and not just a paycheck. Older Millennials were entering the workplace near the time of the Great Recession. Many could not find work, so they went back to school or spent a few years volunteering and learning. And yes, many had to move back in with their parents. All that said, Millennials were all about finding meaning in their jobs and making the world a better place. Although the Great Recession impacted many Millennials, this generation rated having meaning and purpose in their work over perks and income. They successfully brought purpose to the forefront of today’s business culture.

The Great Recession had a significant effect on Gen Z too. Gen Z was old enough to see their parents lose jobs and struggle as the economy crashed. This generation remembers the tough times, and they are very frugal with their money. They look for bargains, shop in thrift stores, and they are savers. A new report out states that Gen Z adults between the ages of 18 and 21 prioritize making money and having a successful career. Those two goals are more important to them than having close friendships, getting married, or traveling. Sure, they want to make a difference, but surviving and thriving take priority. Right now, compensation overrides workplace satisfaction and engagement. Money is the key driver, along with healthcare benefits and other perks.

During this pandemic, smart companies incorporate financial education in their online tools for their employees to access. Money is top of mind for this generation and possible for all the others too. Gen Z’s concerns deal with the bottom line: Are they making enough? Saving enough? Can they pay back their college loans? Will they ever have enough money to buy a car? Or a house? Gen Z is turning out to be a generation of savers.

Keep your eye on Gen Z. The world is changing. COVID-19 is reshaping our social, political, and economic landscape. Gen Z, along with the rest of us, is facing an uncertain world. Pew Research reports that Gen Zers have been hit hard during this coronavirus crisis. Their behaviors and perspective may change. Stay tuned.

Karen McCullough, CSP, CVP  is an Award-winning High Energy Keynote Speaker expert on Change, Generations in the Workplace, and Branding; both Onstage and Virtually! She inspires and empowers organizations and individuals to evolve, grow, and realize their true potential for excellence. Participants will acquire tools to help them create an environment of multi-generational trust, collaboration, productivity, and innovation. Tapping into the knowledge and strengths of your multigenerational team will give you “The Generational Advantage!”. To hire Karen for Your next Event click here: https://bit.ly/3okRdYF

Gen X “Whatever!”

Understanding Gen X

As more and more Boomers head for retirement, we see Gen X is taking over the leadership reigns! Across the board Gen X’ers are now leading in all levels of government, education, corporations, small businesses and associations. Their leadership style and their perceptions are very different from the Boomers and the legacy they leave behind will change the world forever. To get a better understanding of the Gen X psyche, let’s go back and discover what makes them tick.

Who Is Generation X? Born 1964–1980

Gen X: There Will Never Be Another!

The generation following the Boomers has been called Generation X or Gen X. In numbers, Gen X (51 million) is the smallest generation sandwiched in between the largest generations: the Boomers (75 Million) and the Millennials (78 million).

The term Generation X has been used at various times throughout history to describe alienated youth, and the name seemed to fit this new generation.

As with most generational labels, “Generation X” is a somewhat negative term, coined by Douglas Coupland, author of the 1991 book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. For Coupland, the letter “X” was meant to signify the generation’s random, ambiguous, and contradictory ways.

Generation Xers were the children born during a time of shifting social and family values, a challenging economy, and advances in technology in the U.S.

Boomers, who were also called the “Me Generation,” were deep into self-actualizing, and their focus seemed to be less on their children and more on themselves and their careers.

Stagflation, Women Working, and the Pill

Gen X kids grew up in harder times than the Boomers did. Between 1979 and 1995, some 43 million jobs were lost through corporate downsizing. Newly created jobs paid less and offered fewer benefits, and stagflation appeared. In economics, stagflation happens when the inflation rate is high, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment remains steadily high.

Many families needed more than one income to survive and women reentered the workforce to provide the extra income.

The challenges in the American economy combined with other social changes, including the Pill, feminism, increased levels of education among women and men, revolutionized the American family.

A new trend was occurring: American couples began to marry later, have fewer children, and divorce more frequently. In 1973, when “the Pill” went on the market, most Americans lived in nuclear-style families. The average married couple had three to four children, and mothers stayed home and tended to the family. By 2000, the average family had shrunk to two children (that’s why this generation is so small), and one out of two marriages was ending in divorce. Almost a third of American children were being raised by a single parent or an unmarried couple—further contributing to profound changes in family dynamics.

Growing Up in the 70s and 80s

Freedom! Well sort of … kids had lots of freedom back in the 70s and 80s. They played outside! They had wheels—their bikes—and they got to roam and ride all day until the streetlight came on at night. More than likely, this childhood freedom will never happen again. Helicopter parents have entered the building!

The term “Latchkey Kids,” a name created by Boomers, referred to children who came home from school to an empty house because mom was working. The kids of this era were given a great deal of responsibility and a list of chores was often left on the kitchen table to be completed before mom got home: empty the dishwasher, plug in the crock pot, do your homework, and help your brother and sister with theirs, fill the ice cube trays, set the table, and don’t make a mess. The responsible Xer did get many of the items on the list done, but only after hours of watching MTV, listening to the radio, and making mixed-tapes to share with their friends.

Now let’s pause for a moment. If you were born between 1964 and 1979 and your mom did not work and you did not have lots of independence, you may be more like a Boomer than a Gen Xer. The same goes for Boomers, no matter what your age, if your mom worked and you were left alone to be independent and more personally responsible, you may relate more to Gen X.

Let’s go back to the growing-up years of Gen X and reflect on them. Parents and even teachers did not coddle this generation along with the Boomers. Gen X saw first hand that their parents were human and fallible, and they often found themselves giving their parents advice and comfort. Autonomy and self-reliance, rather than respect for authority, were natural byproducts of the Generation X childhood.

Looking back at this generation, it’s easy to see that Gen X could possibly be the last generation of children and teens to grow up with freedom, independence, and the luxury to try different things on their own, fail, and try again.

Gen X: Skeptical and Cynical – Reality Bites

Xers grew up seeing lost children on milk cartons and taking their Halloween candy to the hospital to get it x-rayed because a neighbor may have slipped a razor blade or pins into their Milk Duds. They watched TV when a frying pan came on the screen and heard a voice announce, “This is your brain,” and then an egg was cracked into a pan with the voice explaining, “This is your brain on drugs!”

They also grew up in an era when many of the sacred institutions (churches, schools, government) fell apart or let them down. Gen Xers saw corporations like Enron and WorldCom crumble, leaving their employees with empty pension funds. They watched in real time as the doomed Challenger exploded, and as Heisman winner O.J. was crouched in the back of his white Bronco while his friend drove it down a Los Angeles freeway. Here are the dates for the memorable events that squelched their ability to blindly trust and also added to their skeptical nature:

1972 – Watergate Scandal

1973 – Energy Crisis and Long Gas Lines

1979 – Three Mile Island Meltdown

1980s – Priest, Politician, and Teacher Scandals

1986 – Challenger Disaster

1990s – Corporate Layoffs (parents laid off)

1992 – Rodney King Beating / Police Brutality

1995 – Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal

2001 – Enron / Tyco Corporate Scandal

“Never confuse having a career with having a life,” Eddie Bauer Shopping bag slogan.

Generation X entered the workforce when the Boomers were in their prime, and early on there were not many areas for this generation to flourish—except, of course, in technology!

Because many Gen Xers learned independence early in life, this attribute turned out to be a valuable trait and Xers progressed in their work and in the world. As writer Mary Donohue proudly writes in her article in the Huffington Post, “Gen X is your bread and butter. They have worked through more recessions than their parents or grandparents ever did. Most often they are executive leaders who are on the cusp of becoming the C-class, but aren’t thriving in the workplace. The closer these workers get to 55 the more their knowledge becomes invaluable to your organization and to your customers. They are your intellectual capital.”

Because many Gen Xers had early contact with the “real world,” they are highly self-reliant and positioned to take on leadership in all organizations—corporate, non-profit, and community. As a whole they are serious about meeting commitments, have a strong sense of purpose, and are highly resilient. Gen X is the generation who wants options/choices since they don’t want to be cornered into just one and only one single way of doing something. They are innovative, creative, and insightful. These qualities position them for great leadership in an era of disruptive thinking. Gen X values new ideas and “out of the box” thinking.

As leaders today, they must help organizations become more collaborative. They must continue to ask great questions and get others excited and engaged in work and projects. They must embrace complexity and continue to seek new answers and new disruptions. And they must keep up their need for authenticity, purpose, and mission in the workplace and world.

Karen McCullough is called a Branding Expert (she worked with Ralph Lauren), a Social Media Enthusiast (she tweets), and a Millennial Evangelist (she sees the future). She’s an award-winning speaker who inspires and empowers organizations and individuals to evolve, grow, and realize their true potential for excellence. She innovates through her keen perception and knowledge of human behaviors, trends, and even a little pop culture. To book her for your next event click here:    Karen McCullough