One of the generational trends I find interesting today is how little Generation X is talked about in the news. It seems we're fed a consistent diet of information on the toils and trepidations of both Baby Boomers and Millennials but how often do we hear about the challenges faced by Gen X. Like the middle child of a competitive family, Generation X has grown up in the shadow of its older, bigger sibling and has had to fight for attention with a younger rival.
At 60 Million they're squeezed between two giant generations, 80 Million Boomers and 82 Million Millennials. Not an ideal situation. It's easy to get drowned out with those kinds of numbers surrounding you.
Xers have had a tough go of it. They struggled to land their first jobs in the early ‘80s and ‘90s, graduating during recessions that give the more recent downturn of 2008 a run for it's money. They came into a workplace dominated by a massive group of Boomers where they quickly learned that in order to survive they would need to figure it out on their own and figure it out fast.
Now in their Late 30s and 40s, Xers are still fighting the good fight. They've battled their way up the corporate ladder. They've put in the long hard hours and made the sacrifices necessary to have a shot at becoming the next generation of great leaders. Here's the problem; Boomers aren't leaving and Millennials are coming on strong.
In every industry we work with, Xers are finding their Baby Boomer bosses and colleagues are having second thoughts about that retirement party. At the same time Millennials are flooding into the ranks with lots of tech skills and big expectations for growth and promotion. As a result many Gen Xers are feeling stuck, stalled out in mid-career slumps.
So what do you do if you think your Xers might be feeling the squeeze?
If you're a Boomer boss and you've got high potential Xers waiting in the wings, looking for opportunities to step up, get serious about delegation. Start looking for projects and initiatives this generation could be leading. Get serous about taking things off your own plate that could be handled by that up and coming leader. Yes, they might do it different but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
If you're an ambitious Millennial, keep pushing for those growth opportunities but be mindful of the fact the Xer's neck you're breathing down has been grinding it out since you were in elementary school. Pump the brakes a bit and take a breath. I'm not saying don't be ambitious, I'm just saying have a little respect for the tough situation many Xers find themselves in today. You'd be surprised how much respect you'll garner just by tuning in to the situation they face today. You also might want to keep those comments about taking their job in the next 18 months to yourself. Trust me, its not helping the relationship.
We can't afford to loose our best Xers because they're feeling squeezed out. Boomers will retire and when they do, we'll need Gen X to help get us navigate this new world of work.