“We didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about ourselves as a generation,” says Michael Borum (born in 1970), the digital strategist for an international nonprofit based in Boston. “We are too busy getting shit done.”
…We were the kids who were told we could do anything we set our minds to, but we were given no guidance on how. We had to figure it out ourselves. We have been hit with a major economic crisis during nearly every formative moment of our lives.
…Gen Xers launch more startups that have paid employees—the true economic engine of the United States—than any other generation.
…Still, most of us are rank-and-file employees. We’re trying hard to make the most of our peak earning years. According to an Experian study, we are burdened with more debt on average than either the boomers or millennials (not surprising, since we’re putting kids through college and still paying off our mortgages). We’re not sure that Social Security or Medicare will be around when we retire.
Most important, we haven’t made a big deal about any of this, and neither has anyone else. In a recent study by the Pew Research Organization, members of all three generations were asked if their generation was unique. Six in 10 boomers and millennials said yes. Less than half of the Gen X respondents said yes.
…We were too busy doing the work. Unfortunately, that means we haven’t made much of a stink about our feelings, or what we’re entitled to, or what we deserve because of how productive, innovative, and independent we are. We also didn’t make much of a stink about things we definitely should have, such as sexual harassment and gender, age, and racial discrimination.
…My editor cared not a single iota about my feelings, whether I was being triggered, whether I felt unsafe or uncomfortable or scared. Over time, thanks to being thrown into the deep end of that particular pool over and over again, I learned to swim. I built up the psychic armor I needed to do the job, in which I regularly got yelled at by my editor, sexually harassed by one of our ad staffers, and very drunk with my coworkers. I didn’t expect any special accommodations and neither did anyone else. That armor has been my most valuable asset in the workplace. My Generation X compadres come with this asset as well.
…“I think the Gen Xers need to realize that their future is based on how well they get along and interact between the massive boomer generation and the massive millennials on the other side,” he says. “They must realize they are a bridge between the two. That’s why Xers must become more social and engaged and interested in their teams.”
Here’s the problem: We really, really don’t want to do that. Gen Xers are lone wolves, used to relying on ourselves, problem-solving, making a path where none exists. We work hard until the job is done. For all these reasons, millennials are our antithesis. They infuriate us.
…There are approximately 10 trillion articles out there about “How to Manage Millennials,” but you already know the drill: Take a deep breath, abandon your expectations, praise liberally, criticize very gently, be patient, and give very, very specific instructions.
Dayum, sounds like somebody is having trouble at work.