Gen X & Gen Y: How can we all get along?

I recently had this conversation with my Gen X friend (disclaimer: I am also in Gen X) that went something like this:

Friend: This intern, she would just come to work whenever she was available.

Me: You mean, she didn’t come in during her regularly scheduled hours?

Friend: No! She would call and tell me that she “Had class,” or “Something came up.” She just wouldn’t come in. She was an intern, we gave her this job, which was a pain in my butt to organize and manage, and she didn’t show up!

Me: So what happened?

Friend: She eventually asked me to meet with her and said “I’m sorry, but unless you have a specific project for me, I don’t think that I can keep working here.” I was psyched! I told her that the internship wasn’t working out, that I was sorry and that I wished her the best of luck. But good riddence!

Me: What was her deal?

Friend: She’s Gen Y.

Gen XGeneration X – Those born from approximately 1961 to 1981, 51 million people.

Generation Y – Those born from approximately 1981 to 1995, 75 million people.

There are some pretty significant differences between workers from Gen X and workers from Gen Y (just as there were differences between Baby Boomers and Gen Xers). There are also some pretty significant stereotypes and perceptions floating around on both sides. We may not always get along, but we do always need to understand each other to be able to work together.

In the spirit of teamwork, here are some generalizations about each generation that may help. (Remember – these are generalizations, which means that they will not apply to everyone!)

Generation X: 

  • Move in and out of workforce to accommodate career and kids.
  • Practical and pragmatic.
  • Self-reliant, individualistic.
  • Want flexibility & freedom.
  • Don’t trust institutions.
  • Want to learn and have new work experiences.
  • Value relationships over work.

Gen YGeneration Y:

  • Pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of scheduled activities since birth.
  • High-performance. High-maintenence.
  • Believe in their own worth.
  • Question everything.
  • Like to work on a team.
  • Want a structured and supportive work environment.
  • Tech-savvy.
  • Financially smart.
  • Think work-life balance is essential.
  • Line between work and home is blurred.
  • More than half move back home after college.
  • Friendship is a strong motivator.
  • Searching for meaning.
  • Internet super-users.
  • Incredible multi-taskers.

So how does this all combine when Gen X and Gen Y are working together (which is fairly standard these days)? Here are some great resources that are must-reads for understanding the dynamics of working with someone outside your generation:

The Rising Rift Between Gen X and Gen Y
Gen Y, Gen X and the Baby Boomers: Workplace Generation Wars
Generation Y Rules: The Flexible Workforce Revolution
Management Techniques for Bringing Out The Best in Generation Y

If you have a favorite article on this topic, please leave a link in the comments.

X photo by PixelFixer
Y photo by exfordy

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