Of course, defining a generation by its characteristics means you are painting with a broad brush, but taking a look at Generation X characteristics, it’s clear that there are some traits and themes that apply to most members of the generation that lands in between Baby Boomers and Millennials.
Dubbed the “Karen generation” by Gen Zers, members of Generation X are those that were born between 1965 and 1980, making them ages 40 to 55 right now. Gen Xers are still very much invested in their careers, with many holding leadership positions. Millennials have taken over as the largest generation in the workforce, but the Generation X characteristics still affect many ways of life in offices today.
The five main characteristics of Generation X in the workplace
Professionals in Generation X have less company loyalty.
Members of Generation X lived, and worked, through the stock market crash of 2008 and the Great Recession that ensued afterward. At the time, Gen Xers’ ages ranged from 28 to 43, meaning that many were well established in their careers when the economy hit rock bottom. The good news is that Gen Xers are the only generation of households to recover the wealth they lost during the Great Recession, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data. The bad news is that Gen X was the generation hit hardest. During the downturn, Gen X homeowners experienced the largest decline in home equity, which is the difference between what the primary residence is worth and all the debts secured by the home.
Additionally, the median net worth of Gen X households had declined 38% from 2007 ($63,400) to 2010 ($39,200), which is far more significant than the typical wealth loss for Boomer and Silent households, which saw 26% and 14% decreases, respectively.
The oldest Millennial in 2007 was only 26, meaning the generation was only beginning to form households and accumulate wealth, but they were still hit hard by the Great Recession in terms of employment and earnings. Millennials were not hit hard by wealth destruction, as they had little wealth to lose.
As a result of the economic hard times, layoffs ensued, with 8.7 million jobs lost between the start of the recession in December 2007 and the end of it in early 2010. As a result of the layoffs during these times, members of Generation X know that you must be the captain of your own ship when it comes to your career, instead of relying on your employer to keep you safe. According to Dorie Clark, a communication coach, consultant, author, and keynote speaker, many realize that company loyalty will only get you so far, and entrepreneurism may actually be the safer bet.
Generation X have had the internet during their whole careers, but they weren’t raised with it.
While Gen Xers weren’t raised with the easy access to internet, they all had access to it at the start of their careers. Gen Xers obviously did not grow up with smartphones, but they have adopted a liking to the convince they provide- although not asa much as younger generations.
While 60% of Millennials use their phones more than an hour per day, only 40% of Gen Xers see the same amount of screen time. According to a Pew Research study, 90% of Gen Xers own a smartphone, compared to only 68% of Baby Boomers and 40% of the Silent Generation. Additionally, 72% of members from Gen X actually prefer to get all of their news online.
Generation X has also adopted social media into their technology warehouse, with 74% reporting that they use Facebook, compared to only 60% of Baby Boomers and 37% of those from the Silent Generation.
Members of Generation X communicate more directly.
According to some, professionals from Generation X are more direct in the workplace than Millennials and Gen Zers, meaning they able to have more honest conversations. Gen Xers don’t care about niceties but instead embrace feedback. Many Millennials are a bit shocked when they are hit with critical feedback, but Gen Xers were raised before a time when even the losing team got a trophy. As a result, they are looking for ways to improve, not ways to be praised.
Additionally, according to SurveyMonkey, Gen X professionals are about 25% more eager to know what is expected of them before they start their work than Millennials.
Generation Xers prioritize work-life balance.
Generation X is the group that started to introduce the idea of a solid work-life balance into the workforce. Gen Xers watched members of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers turn into workaholics in a workforce that encouraged long hours and a hard grind. Instead of totally adopting this mindset, Gen X professionals instead seek a balance of work and life and introduced the idea into the workforce. In 2018, 31% of Gen Xers reported taking 10-19 days, compared to only 21% of Millennials.
Collaboration comes easier to Gen Xers.
As mentioned, Generation X did not grow up with the internet and the tech communication tools we have today, which in many cases positively affects the ways in which they conduct business and form relationships. The first iPhone was released on June 29, 2007, when members of Generation X ranged from 27-years-old to 42-years-old. All those years without a screen to turn to for every answer allowed them to learn the importance of interpersonal skills. As a result, Gen Xers are able to make stronger connections and collaborate more naturally in the workplace.
Statistics about Generation X
- Generation X carried higher average balances than any other generation across all major debt categories besides personal loans, according to consumer credit data from the fourth quarter of 2018 analyzed by Experian data.
- Generation X isn’t getting promoted at as high a rate as Millennials and Baby Boomers. In late 2018, Harvard Business Review analyzed data collected from more than 25,000 leaders and found that while 66% of Generation X leaders had received only one promotion or none at all, Baby Boomer and Millennial counterparts were more likely to have received two or more promotions during the same period of time. Only 52% of Baby Boomer leaders and 58% of Millennial leaders had received only one promotion or none at all.
- Gen Xers are being denied home loans more than any other age group, according to a new report released by the National Association of Realtors that compiled responses from 5,870 homebuyers, between the ages of 22 and 94, from July 2018 to June 2019.
- Generation X women are more sleep-deprived than women from any other generation, according to TIME. Researchers say about 33% of Gen X women get less than seven hours of sleep per night.
- Gen Xers are less stressed out about their finances than Millennials, but more so than Baby Boomers. In a nationwide survey, more than half of millennials surveyed reported feeling overwhelmed by financial obligations, compared with 39% of Gen Xers and 31% of Baby Boomers.
- The same trend is seen when members from each generation were asked about their knowledge of investing and the trust of financial institutions. About 50% of Millennials say they want to invest but have no idea where to begin, compared with 32% of Generation X and less than 20% of Baby Boomers. According to the same survey, 37% of millennials surveyed reported not trusting financial institutions, compared with 29% of Generation X and 22% of Baby Boomers