Common Characteristics of Generation X Professionals
Material is abundant concerning the impact of millennial workers upon the workforce, and the influence of Generation Z within the workforce is now receiving attention.
However, the tremendous role that Generation X plays in the world of work today should also be considered.
Generation X is the term commonly used to describe those born between the years 1965–1980.
These workers are now aged between 40–54 and commonly occupy numerous managerial and senior positions.
As the ‘middle child’ between the traditional and stoic baby boomers and the innovative and creative millennials, Generation X is often neglected.
As the first generation to grow up within the digital age and the first generation to achieve independence, much can be learned from these workers.
Why Should We Be Concerned by Different Generations in the Workplace?
We are presently working in a unique world.
The increase in retirement age has ensured for the first time that four different generations can work simultaneously.
For large employers, it is not uncommon to find employees spanning different eras.
Each generation has its own distinct set of characteristics and personality traits.
These traits could influence work ethic; therefore, if an employer is seeking continual success, they must consider the unique strengths of each generation.
Here are the different generations currently active within the workplace:
|Years Born||Age in 2020||Age in 2025||Age in 2030|
|Generation Z||1997 –||< 23||< 28||< 33|
Each generation will possess vastly different skills and attributes that could make them highly sought-after by employers.
A millennial worker could be ambitious, keen to make a difference to the world, and familiar with the digital creativity and innovation that comes from automation and artificial intelligence.
In contrast, a baby boomer may have spent their entire career working for the same firm and represents loyalty, steadfastness and a belief in ‘tradition’.
But What About Generation X?
With this generation currently aged 40–54, many of these workers could have climbed the corporate ladder and are now in senior decision-making positions.
But what sets these workers apart? And what characteristics are habitual within this generation?
What Are the Stereotypes of Generation X?
Before we look into the key personality traits of Generation X, it is important to understand who they are as a cohort.
We have mentioned that Generation X was the first generation to be given independence.
Unlike older generations, it was highly likely that Generation X grew up in an environment where both parents worked out of the home.
This ‘latch-key’ upbringing meant that Generation X children experienced more independence and freedom than their parents and grandparents.
This freedom meant they grew up to be resilient, independent and self-assured. They did not experience the same pressures of millennials and Generation Z (social media, peer pressure, etc.), nor did they have to cope with the societal pressures bestowed on baby boomers.
Instead, they experienced the freedom that allowed them to become individuals and understand what is important to them.
If millennials grew up with the internet, it is because Generation X invented it.
Therefore, the Generation X audiences understand the impact of technological innovation and creativity.
However, they also comprehend the place of technology within the tradition. As a workforce, a Generation X employer could be adjudged to have the best of both worlds.
What Is Generation X Like at Work?
It can be deduced that Generation X is likely to be in full-time employment.
This is because they have passed the stereotypical ‘family’ age but have not yet begun to approach retirement.
This generation could have worked for several employers (unlike the baby boomers who typically worked for the same employer for the duration of their career).
This has given them sufficient experience; however, unlike millennial workers, they are less likely to job-hop.
This is a generation where they are happy to pay their dues and work their way up the corporate ladder.
As such, Generation X workforces can use their experience and understanding of their sectors to make critical decisions.
They are technically flexible. They can understand the importance of technology in the workplace and can use this to their advantage.
How Does This Compare to Baby Boomers and Millennials?
It is important to comprehend the difference between Generation X and other generations to understand the role of Generation X within the workforce.
The characteristic of baby boomers and millennial workers have been briefly explored; however, here is a closer examination:
Baby Boomers in the Workplace
As the older workforce, baby boomers often believe that their job defines who they are as a person. They are frequently loyal and dedicated to their employers.
It is not unusual for a baby boomer to have spent their entire working life employed by the same company.
This loyalty is honorable; however, it means that these workers tend to pigeonhole themselves into specific roles.
They may only focus on their job tasks rather than seeing the bigger picture.
Therefore, they require extensive micromanaging and they are often unable to use new technologies to speed up their process.
They may struggle to adapt to change and be more concerned with ensuring that things follow a rigid structure.
Millennials in the Workplace
Millennial workers are the fastest-growing generation within the workforce.
They are the first generation to have grown up in the digital era, and as such, they possess a thorough knowledge of technology.
They work hard and are eager to make a significant difference to their employer.
They understand what their employer is trying to achieve, and as such, they prefer to work autonomously with minimal input from others.
However, they have also grown up in the era of instant gratification; therefore, they expect to receive immediate feedback and are passionate about their values.
They expect their employer to align with their morals and ethics, and if there is a mismatch, they will happily move elsewhere.
Millennials consider job-hopping to be standard. This allows them to gain new experience; however, it could result in diminished loyalty which could be a cause for concern for employees.
Where Does the Generation X Worker Fit Into This?
We can anticipate that Generation X workers are a perfect blend of both the baby boomer and the millennial.
Generation X is the first generation who were able to take advantage of white-collar jobs.
They are likely to have been well educated, and they have worked their way up to management positions.
Generation X understands the history and the traditions of the baby boomers; however, they are also aware of the technical capabilities found within millennial workforces.
They can pay close attention to history and combine it with new and innovative ways of working to achieve their goals.
The 10 Common Characteristics of a Generation X Worker
Here are the reasons why certain characteristics of Generation X are highly regarded by employers:
Calmness is an underrated quality. Generation X workers adopt a calm, rational approach to their work.
They understand that they need to think logically and practically before making a rash decision.
They can consider their prior experience and think about how decisions impact others; therefore, they are not emotionally impulsive or driven by personal feelings.
If you possess this trait, you may be suited to a job role within a highly pressurized environment; for example, health or social work, or a customer-facing position.
2. Direct Communication
Generation X tends to be open and honest with their co-workers.
As such, they are often available to talk to if you have a problem. They can help to proactively identify solutions and help employees overcome difficulties.
Generation X is a workforce that prides itself on its flexibility. They understand that they need to marry history with the future.
They are prepared to listen to what is currently taking place (perhaps in the business itself or the wider sector) and make changes when needed.
They are not afraid to identify if something does not work, yet they remain calm and pragmatic while making their decision.
If you are a Generation X worker and you are updating your resume, you may wish to reference this flexibility and ability to adapt to new ways of working/ability to learn new skills.
Employers are keen to hire those who can handle the task at hand with minimal fuss.
4. Focus on Work-Life Balance
Generation X was the workforce that invented the concept of a work-life balance. Generation X is a workforce that lived the ‘boom or bust’ experience in the 1980s.
They understand that loyalty to their employer works both ways; therefore, they are less inclined to work every single hour possible like their baby boomer counterparts.
Generation X desires the best of both worlds. They are loyal, hard-working and committed; however, they also want to have the freedom to explore outside interests.
This generation is loyal to their workforces.
They are happy to move onto new roles if required; however, they want to spend significant time in one place to allow themselves opportunities to learn and climb the career ladder.
If you are a Generation X worker, you may not have the same career history that a millennial worker may have.
However, employers will appreciate that they are more likely to retain you as an employee and may use this loyalty to justify investment into your training and development.
Generation X are sensible workers – they know what works for them and what they need to do to impress their superiors.
They are not driven by emotion. They take their time to make careful decisions and consider all of the options.
They want to listen to the experience gained by older co-workers and also blend that with the innovation of younger colleagues.
This pragmatism makes them great decision-makers and managers.
Generation X has developed resilience after coping with the economic uncertainty of the 1980s and the harsh recession of the early 1990s.
Generation X has learned from their elders. They understand what older generations have experienced, and they have used that knowledge to influence their work methodology.
They understand that they have to work hard for their achievements. This resilience means that they can cope with peaks and troughs within the business world and they can always see the potential in difficult situations
If you are employed within a tumultuous working environment, you could reference resilience within your resume or cover letter.
That would show employers that you can remain calm under pressure and cope with unexpected change.
8. Strong Work Ethic
Generation X are hard workers. They know that success does not come to those that wait and that they need to work hard for every single achievement.
Therefore, Generation X could be considered the pioneers of project management, time management and organizational tools that we take for granted.
This is a generation based around teamwork.
Unlike baby boomers, who only had to focus on their specific job role, Generation X was the first cohort to consider how interdepartmental working could increase success. Therefore, they actively work collaboratively with others.
They are not arrogant enough to believe that they have the skills to manage entire projects. Instead, they are keen to work with others who have the expertise and capabilities to work on specific tasks.
To enhance your Generation X cover letters or demonstrate your value within an interview, why not provide examples of times when you have worked effectively as part of a team?
While they may not have grown up with the internet and social media in the way that millennials and Generation Z have, this is the generation who invented the internet.
Generation X was born at the start of the digital revolution.
They witnessed how technology changed the way that we lived and worked, from the invention of desktop computers to the mass production of TVs and other forms of technology that are now commonplace.
This is a generation that is more attuned than anyone for how technical innovation can make a huge difference.
After all, if a Generation Z employee has never lived without a phone or computer, can they comprehend the importance of the role that these technologies play?
How Can You Make the Most of the Generation X Workforce?
If you are working with members of the Generation X workforce, it is important to understand these character traits to recognize their advantages.
Generation X workers want to be respected. They are prepared to work hard for their employers.
However, in exchange, they want to benefit from a good work-life balance where they can pursue outside interests.
Simple ways to help these workers feel respected is to ensure that meetings start on time and that conversations and emails are productive.
Similarly, offering a strong paid time off policy is also an effective way of helping to motivate Generation X employees.
They want to have the freedom to work independently without being micromanaged; however, they also appreciate being approached for advice.
They have years of experience, and this wealth of knowledge could be advantageous. You may find that the Generation X workforce make excellent mentors.
It is also important to remember that this is a generation that wants to continue learning.
They are highly educated and have seen how continuous career development can make a difference, personally and professionally.
If there are opportunities to make the most of training budgets, do not neglect your older workforce at the expense of your junior colleagues.
Everyone can benefit from additional training, regardless of where they are in their career.
Generation X currently occupies approximately 35% of the workforce. Approximately a quarter of all Generation X workers have remained with their current employer for more than 15 years.
As they reach the pinnacle of their careers, it is clear that this is the powerhouse generation behind many successful companies.
Generation X workers have used their background knowledge (both academic and practical) to instigate changes and technical innovations that millennial and Generation Z audiences have not.
Therefore, far from being the ‘forgotten’ generation, perhaps this is the most crucial generation of the workforce that we should continue to pay close attention to?
Millennial/Generation Z employees should take the opportunity to listen to and learn from their Generation X colleagues in the same way that they did with baby boomers.
There is much to learn from this generation who have trail-blazed and created many opportunities that today’s younger workforces take for granted.