Generation X characteristics can be viewed in a few different lights. The generation that defined current Americana culture in ways of music and art has been dubbed by some, like Vanity Fair, as the generation “best suited to preserve American tradition in these dark new days.” Gen X gave America portable music via the Walkmen, experienced “Parental Advisory” stickers first on music, forward fashion, and a whole lot more that jumpstarted and defined what America is today.
But that’s not enough for today’s Gen Zers — America’s youngest workforce.
While Gen Zers and Millennials — the most self-absorbed generations today — teamed up to poke Baby Boomers with the subtle “OK boomer” jab, Gen Zers have also decided to take a few stabs at Gen X — by calling them the “Karen generation.”
What exactly is a Karen? Per Buzzfeed:
“Karen, the middle-aged white mom who is always asking for the manager and wondering why kids are so obsessed with their identities.”
Who is considered Generation X?
Anyone born between the years 1965 and 1980 is considered a member of Generation X.
Packed tightly between loudmouth Baby Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers are often dubbed America’s neglected “middle child.” A Pew Research report from 2014 highlighted some trends between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials which found Gen Xers to fall in the middle of just about everything, like the number of Facebook friends and patriotism while calling themselves the least distinct generation of the three.
Side note: Gen Xers were healthier at the same age than Millennials, according to a separate survey.
The scariest Generation X characteristic is that they are financially screwed
While Millennials are plagued by student loan debt causing them to miss out on life’s excitements like travel and marriage, Generation X are the ones hurting financially the most.
A recent study by LendingTree found that Gen Xers have the highest average debt burden of any generation as Gen Xers’ average debt burdens rose by about 10% ($11,898) between 2016 and 2019.
Another note from that study — Gen Xers have the most credit card debt of any generation while spending the most on non-essentials like dining out and lottery tickets.
How Generation X characteristics affect the workplace
As Millennials and Gen Zers cry for more amenities in the workplace, Gen Xers were the architects for many things that are common in offices around the US.
Think of the nap pods or open floor designs. How about free meals and the abandonment of cubicle farms? Forward-thinking workspaces like Googleplex started in 1994, helped the office shift into a more work-life balance instead of a different dimension of hell.
Compared to Millennials, Gen-X employees are 25% more eager to advance than their counterparts. They’ve been found to set defined goals and expectations and feel their company is dealing effectively with customer experience, according to a poll done by SurveyMonkey.
Despite the positive news, companies should be wary as they could be looking at a retention problem with Gen Xers in the near future.
What Generation X characteristics appear in the workplace?
- Generation X is more direct.
Professionals from Generation X are more direct than Millennials and Gen Zers, meaning they appreciate having more open and honest conversations. Gen Xers don’t care about niceties.
“Often I feel that I can be much more straight with Gen Xers,” said Samantha Skey, CEO of SHE Media. “So I’m able to operate a bit more naturally with Gen Xers,”
- Generation X professionals embrace feedback and don’t let negative feedback keep them up at night.
While Millennials are a bit shocked when they are hit with critical feedback, 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.
- Generation Xers embrace 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.
- They have a hybrid relationship with technology.
While Gen Xers weren’t raised with the internet, many of them did have access to it at the start of their careers. Many Gen Xers aren’t attached to their phones, but they are keen on using email to communicate. 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.
- Gen Xers are more adept to collaboration.
Speaking of Gen Xer’s relationship with technology, the lack of internet and tech tools in their early lives positively affected the ways in which they conduct business and form relationships. Generation X members were adults by the time smartphones came into play, and 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.