For Gen Xers, Success Means Balance

Businesses today are facing generation issues as baby boomer managers, born between 1946 and 1964, try to figure out why the Generation Xers, ages 27 to 41, don’t have the pay-your-dues attitudes they do, Kentucky.com reports. Miami accounting firm owner Richard Berkowitz found that out quickly during tax season. “When I told them it was mandatory they come in on the weekend, they looked at me like I was out of my mind.”


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Younger employees are pre-occupied with how they use their time. A survey of 1,200 Gen Xers of both sexes, conducted by Charlotte and Laura Shelton, found that “most don’t define themselves solely by their jobs,” the Wall Street Journal says. “They want work to be only one component of a balanced portfolio of meaningful life experiences that includes family, friends, fitness and fun,” says Charlotte Shelton. “As a manager, you have to listen to this generation,” she says. “The old ways of doing work aren’t working anymore.” The survey is published in the Sheltons’ book, “The NeXt Revolution: What Gen X Women Want at Work and How their Boomer Bosses Can Help Them Get It.”

“Boomers may not understand people who would forgo a promotion in order to maintain balance,” says Sharon Jordan-Evans, a workplace consultant in Cambria, California, the Journal reports. “A boomer would say “thank you,” take the promotion and then sacrifice.”

Bridging the gap between the generations can be as easy as using the right language. When speaking with young staffers, acknowledge the value of their time, Cam Marston, a consultant suggests, according to Kentucky.com. A manager could begin the dialogue by saying “I know work isn’t your life, but while you’re here, let’s agree on what you’ll be accountable for.”

Berkowitz has stopped using the word “mandatory” when talking about overtime. This year he will inform his employees about the work that will need to be done and let them create their own schedules. He is also considering changing his bonus and compensation plans to reward productivity, Kentucky.com says.

Marston suggests that rather than wait for an end-of-year bonus, a Gen Xer might prefer to hear that he or she had worked hard that week, and be told, “Why don’t you take off half a day on Friday.”

Gen Xers change jobs frequently, for both money and more responsibility, according to Elizabeth Pezzullo, writing for fredericksburg.com. Boomer managers can keep them on board longer by recognizing the differences between the generations. Pezzullo suggests that managers:

  • Leave Gen Xers alone. Dole out an assignment and walk away. Allow them to meet the challenges themselves.
  • Don’t give step-by-step instructions. With greater responsibility, staff are less likely to leave their jobs.
  • Share important information about the business and give staff an opportunity to be heard.
  • Appreciate the fact that Gen Xers have grown up with technology and won’t mind helping you program your cell phone.

For their part, Pezzullo says, employees should remember that taking advantage of managers’ experience is an important part of their professional learning. And changing jobs frequently does not look good to hiring managers, most of whom are boomers.

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