Magazine

Generation Gaps: What's Eating Gen X


Never was the generational divide more starkly exposed than when we posted a piece by Tammy Erickson (BusinessWeek.com, 5/15/08) at BusinessWeek.com on why Gen Xers are unhappy at work. We received more than 350 responses from readers sharing their own experiences, frustrations, aspirations, and solutions. Below is just a tiny sampling of the stories you told us about being sandwiched between boomers and Yers in the workplace.

MLM

I'm in my late 30s, and I would say that I and all my friends are disgruntled with Corporate America regardless of what industry you work in. I've worked in the same industry since college, but I'm with my sixth company. I've experienced more layoffs, mergers, and restructurings than I care to remember. I've relocated on several different occasions. However, I'm done uprooting my life and moving across the country for a job. I don't feel loyalty to any company. You work hard and put in many hours only to get handed a pink slip.

I have friends who have left Corporate America for smaller businesses or started their own ventures. They're much happier. I don't mind Gen Y. I find them to be quite amusing. They definitely have a different work ethic, but most I find are willing and eager to learn. My current employer already has had layoffs this year. I don't know what the future holds, so I'm saving money. I figure if I get laid off, I'll collect a severance and unemployment and start my own business.

Michael

I have nothing against Gen Yers or boomers but do feel stuck in the middle. I have an executive management team who are 8 to 12 years older than I am, with no plans for retirement in the near future. This leaves me stuck. I have been searching for business opportunities due to my distrust of Corporate America's motives.

Yes, business is about profit, but does that mean that loyalty and corporate responsibility should be placed aside for the dollar? I can say that many of my Xer friends and acquaintances would rather make less in return for more flexibility with family and for the opportunity to make a difference for people.

KGHC

What is the career strategy for Gen X? The strategy is there is no strategy. We grew up being told we can do and be anything we want. We watched our parents remain loyal to a company/lifestyle/job only to be miserable at the end. Our strategy is to find a position that blends our family/work/life into a cohesive entity that satisfies the monetary bank account and our karmic bank account. What are Gen Xers' career options? We define our happiness and what our options are. I liked the term "working gypsies."

As a Gen Xer, we know our worth. We are always willing to try, learn, and acquire new skills. We have also acquired the knowledge that change is the only constant in the universe. We initiate change and are the better for it. We will one day rule Corporate America, if only for a brief time. Gen X will have a strong impact on the global economy, for the better.

Gen-Y Guy

As a 26-year-old Gen Yer, I think I should point out that the reason you feel Gen Y is lazy and a bunch of know-it-alls is because we're the generation that has been BOMBARDED by information since the beginning. Important information was handed to us via the Internet in high school and college. Before entering the workplace, we saw the tech bubble and AOL (TWX), we watched the Enron guys walk in handcuffs, we saw 9/11, saw rap videos with people throwing money around, and then we started to watch Jim Cramer go crazy and learned all about those things called HEDGE FUNDS. Right out of college we had more information at our fingertips than probably you Xers had all throughout the early '90s.

It's really interesting to hear all you Gen Xers complain about Corporate America. That is probably why the Gen Y people hate working for you. If you're not happy, go do something else, period. Leave your management job and make a little bit less doing something you want to do. It's a free market, and you have to think like the billionaires of the world controlling your company and know that you're a piece of labor to the hedge funds and they're not looking out for you and your family.

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