How Generation X’ers are Changing the Workplace

Millennials, move aside. Generation X deserve more credit for the impact they’ve made in the workplace.

Who are the Generation X’ers? According to Pew Research Centre, they are those who were born between 1965 and 1979. In a world that’s so concerned about Millennials (born after 1980) and Baby Boomers (born between 1960 and 1964), one can argue that Generation X’ers are the neglected “middle child”.

But that’s about to change.

It’s the Generation X, not Millennials or Boomers, who are changing the way we work or create products. Don’t believe me? Go through the list below and see if any of the names or brands sound familiar.

Some of the Most Influential Generation X’ers

Laura J. Alber
Laura J. Alber

Laura Alber

One of the highest paid women in the world. Born in 1968, Laura is the famous CEO of Williams-Sonoma, a retail company specialising in kitchenware and home furnishings.

Daymond Garfield John
Daymond Garfield John

Daymond Garfield  John

Shark Tank investor Daymond John was born in 1969. He made his fortune by founding FUBU, a famous clothing brand.

Michael Saul Dell
Michael Saul Dell

Michael Dell

Born in 1965, Michael Dell is the founder of Dell Technologies, one of the world’s largest computer and tech manufacturers. I bet one of you is reading this article on a Dell laptop, desktop, or monitor!

Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

Any gamers out there? If not for this Generation X’er who was born in 1974,  we won’t be enjoying famous Electronic Arts titles such as The Sims, Battlefield, Need for Speed, and of course, Plants vs. Zombies.

Generation X’ers Changed the Physical Office

The nap pods, open spaces, free meals, colourful workplaces, playgrounds, and lavish gardens that Millennials would die to work in and Baby Boomers covet are the makings of Generation X’ers. They are the architects of the productive offices of the 21st century.

Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child’
Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child’

We’ve seen these design trends first in Googleplex before it became mainstream. And guess what? Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, are members of Generation X. They were both born in 1973 and like most of their generation, were labelled as slackers — people who live in basements or garages because they couldn’t find jobs. Thanks to that garage, Google was born.

A Generation X’er Triggered the New Space Race

Surprised? Yes, Elon Musk, the person behind innovative and out of this world (literally) companies is a proud member of Generation X. Elon Musk was born in  1971 and has made himself a household name — thanks to Paypal, Tesla, and of course SpaceX.

A proof that he’s a proud Generation X’er is the name of SpaceX’s rockets. The Falcon rockets are named in honour of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon — the spaceship that every Generation X’ers want to fly. The Dragon Capsule, on the other hand, is named after Puff, the Magic Dragon, a song popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963.

Gen Xers are bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind – that are strikingly different from one another.

The space race between the Soviet Union and the United States began in the 1950s when the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. This was followed by sending the first man, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in space in 1961. The space race reached its climax when the United States successfully landed Neil Armstrong on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Interest in space died down after the first moon landing and it has remained that way until  Elon Musk showed the world that it can be exciting again.

“We want a new space race. Space races are exciting.” – Elon Musk

Today, the new space race is between private companies — Elon’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ (founder of Amazon) Blue Origin, and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Now let me ask you. If you’re a Millennial aerospace engineer, where will you go to work? To NASA? Boring! There are a lot of reasons why most Millennials prefer to work for Musk.

How Generation X is Shaping the Workplace Culture

Generation X’ers bring a culture of work ethic, quality, and reciprocal relationships in the workplace. They can work with Millennials and serve as mentors in helping them learn crucial people skills like relationship building, adaptability, communication styles, employee motivation, empathy, group dynamics as well as various management and leadership styles.

Xers are more pessimistic than both of those larger generations that they’ll have enough money for their retirement

Generation X can increase the chances of younger Millennials to be successful in their role as future managers and leaders. Success in the workplace is not defined by intelligence alone. There are several forces at play including influence, emotional intelligence, and relationships — something that Generation X’ers have applied for years.

How Generation X can work with Millennials

Generation X’ers are now in the middle of their careers. And then they will eventually retire — passing on the reins (and the future) of the business to Millennials. Generation X and Millennials share many things already including the ability to adopt technology and high emphasis on work-life balance.

Millennials, the “everybody-gets-a-trophy” generation, have been the subject of endless stories about their racial diversity, their political and social liberalism, their voracious technology use, and their grim economic circumstances.
Millennials, the “everybody-gets-a-trophy” generation, have been the subject of endless stories about their racial diversity, their political and social liberalism, their voracious technology use, and their grim economic circumstances.

Below are some of the things a Generation X’er can do to shape up the future of the workplace.

  1. Mentor a promising Millennial and share to him the judgment, understanding, and knowledge gained.
  2. Delegate work and new projects to Millennials and teach them the value of collaboration and autonomy. The next leaders in the workplace should be able to make decisions on their own.
  3. As they say, “it takes two to tango.” Generation X should not dismiss the opportunity to learn something new especially about technology from their Millennial counterparts.
  4. Being able to take risks and explore new possibilities (one thing that most Baby Boomers failed to do in the comfort of their cubicles).
  5. Listen to Millennials and not being afraid to implement their new ways of doing things.

How to retain your Generation X Talent

The Boomers are about to retire and in a few years, Generation X will be dominating the workforce. Most of Gen X’ers are now in mid-level positions and many will soon rise to C-suite.

World War II photographer Robert Capafirst coined the term Generation X in a photo essay about the young adults of the 1950s

Knowing the characteristics of Generation X in the workplace is important. This will help you understand what drives them, what perks they desire, and what helps them succeed. Here are some of them:

1# Don’t be a nagging leader

Generation X’ers are known for their organisational skills. They know how to pace themselves and get work done in a timely manner. Leaders who nag for constant updates may end up harbouring resentments from his Gen X workers. Of course, there are some activities that need constant monitoring and they’re an exception to this rule.

Generation X’ers are independent and autonomous. They have learned to work at an early age while their parents are away at work — enabling them to develop a sense of independence and strong work ethics which are evident up to these days.

They can be as workaholic as they want to be but their bosses should know their limit on how they treat them. Efforts that are not compensated are problematic and need legal assistance if it happens that the issues are not addressed properly. This is why all workers are protected by employment law to ensure that no one can get away from any forms of unjust treatment in the workplace.

2# Give them a challenge

Generation X’ers are adaptable. It’s what makes them thrive even in a very technology-dependent workplace. And they love challenges too! Their strong work ethics enables them to work well in challenging situations. They can start a project from scratch and see it through to completion.

3# Flexible work hours

Working flexible hours is not just a Millennial thing. It’s a lifestyle that Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers yearn for as they learn the value and importance of work-life balance. Remember, Gen X’ers grew up seeing their parents putting in long hours of stressful work just to climb up that corporate ladder. Flex options can include working from home in certain days.

4# Treat them as entrepreneurs

Generation X’ers have an unquenchable business-minded spirit. As a matter of fact, 41% of Gen X’ers label themselves as entrepreneurs and many are already transitioning from employees to business owners.

Entrepreneurs have a unique skill set that you can leverage for your business — this ranges from project management to campaign creations. Learn how to use these to your advantage and give your Generation X workers the opportunity and the environment to show off these skills.

5# Always give feedback

Feedbacks are important to Generation X’ers because they value professional development and growth — traits they learned from their hardworking Baby Boomer parents. Gen X’ers want to cultivate a healthy relationship with their supervisors so dish out those quarterly reports and give feedback whenever its due.

Like their Millennial counterparts, Generation X’ers are more likely to leave a company when they don’t see any room for growth. The oldest Gen X’ers will still be in the workplace for at least a decade while the younger members of the generation are expected to work for over 30 years. This means that they will be playing critical roles in your business for quite some time.

Now is the time focus on Generation X and stop treating them as neglected workers. Why? Because they bring so much to the table.

To sum up, here are the key takeaways from this article: 

  • Generation X’ers are creating an impact in the workplace. They are founding game-changing companies and are changing our workplaces and the way we work.
  • Gen X’ers bring quality, strong work ethics, and adaptability in the company culture. They are in a much better position to mentor and train the Millennial leaders of the future.
  • To retain your Generation X talent you must:
    • Avoid being a nagging leader.
    • Challenge Gen X’ers by allowing them to work on various projects.
    • Value work-life balance by introducing an option to work flexible hours on certain days of the week.
    • Give Generation X’ers a conducive environment where they can show off their entrepreneurial skills.
    • Give Gen X’ers timely feedbacks and create room for professional growth.


Written By

Lenmark Anthony Baltazar

I have been living a life of HR for as long as I can remember. My experiences helped me realize that true happiness comes from being a blessing to the lives of others. I hope my skills and talents will be a blessing to you as well.