Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gen Xers and Boomers - I'd like your opinion

I'm a regular reader of the Brazen Careerist blog community. Today I read an entry that amused me. I'd like to see what you think. Take a look and report back.


989 Design said...

Nothing against the writer, but that seems a little juvenile. She sounds like a kid saying, "don't lecture me about how to drive, just give me the keys and I'll show you how it's done."

I admire the girl's enthusiasm and optimism, but painting generations before hers with one brush is as unfair as the treatment she is complaining about. I think of myself as being pretty optimistic, but I don't live in a world where I can ride my unicorn along the rainbows. I live in the real world where people who are older than me (although there are fewer and fewer of them left) own the companies and they make the rules. Instead of griping about how my generation was treated—and believe me, GenX could whine with the best of them—I just worked.

There is nothing wrong with expecting the best of your future and knowing that you have a lot to contribute, but you have to pay your dues. As with every generation before you, GenY isn't all whiz kids. Some will excel, some will thrive, some of you will survive, some won't. Every generation gets the same deal, only the surrounding circumstances change. Make the most of what you have and will will be great. Spend your time complaining about how unfairly you are treated and you're wasting your time.

Anonymous said...

It's the "we deserve better" comment that gets me the most. GenY might very well deserve better -- but the concept that she's arrogant enough to demand it shows a lot of immaturity and the same "we all get a trophy" attitude I've experienced.

Unknown said...

Part of me is like, "Oh she's so cute. Look at that enthusiasm. It's adorable."

Another part of me is like, "I can't wait until she grows up and starts thinking about something other than herself and being liked and respected."

Gen X. I'm so cynical and condescending.

Jennifer Chronicles (jenx67.com) said...

I miss the days when I thought enthusiasm and youth were a virtue. I cherish these days - believing that my 40s is my best decade yet. But, I don't begrudge them this right of passage. All too soon life will give them plenty of reasons to be bitter and jaded. They'll have their job losses and divorces; disappointments and come-upins. Hopefully, they will exercise the gratitude Trunk talks about in her post today, and as she said in another post, life is incredibly hard. It's hard to imagine that anyone would want to do it (life).

In 1930, Brenda Ueland wrote in her book, "If You Want To Write" that people, in general, like to extinguish the bright light that burns inside someone - the letter killeth. I don't want to be that way. I had a few Boomer mentors along the way who nurtured the bright light inside me, and a few who licked their thumb and index finger and put them together to extinguish the flame. What do we want to be remembered for? The Boomer who nurtured me the most died unexpectedly at 60.

Anonymous said...

Wah wah wah effin' wah. Quit whining about your whining. "Instead of companies criticizing how Generation Y wants to be treated, they should try treating them that way." Uh....WHAT WAY? I know, I could click on the hyperlink and just read "what way," but the blogger should know better than to expect that anybody is going to constantly click in and out of her post in order to play "follow the links." I'm Gen-X, and therefore too jaded, pessimistic,and bitter to take that extra step.
So Suzanne, was this the kind of response you were looking for, and part of the reason the article you referenced amused you so?Really, methinks the blogger mayhap wanteth instant results with little effort. Gee. Perky and inexperience enthusiasm is SUPPOSED to win out over experience, experience that might be willing to try a new idea if Perky weren't so damned irritating.


J. Varon said...

Thanks for responding to my post, all! I'm happy to get some feedback from the older generations.

@989 Design, you said, "Instead of griping about how my generation was treated—and believe me, GenX could whine with the best of them—I just worked." - Okay, maybe YOU, specifically haven't griped, but I've seen this argument so many times before. "I'm Gen X and I had to be treated this way, so you do, too." That's not empowering. If you were verbally abused as a child, would you tell your children, "Well, I was abused when I was your age, so you have to be, too."? God, no, you wouldn't (or, at least, I'd hope you wouldn't). And I'm not wasting my time griping, I'm blogging to an audience, sparking a discussion.

@Naomi Munn - Man, the conundrum of being confident. We're told, constantly, to be confident. CONSTANTLY. And, yet, when we are, we're arrogant? Ouch.

@Laurie - Wow, the whole, "Wait until this happens..." Is that really what you hope for this Generation? Do you have children? Would you really wish for their optimism to fizzle out? That actually really made me sad.

@jenx67 - "All too soon life will give them plenty of reasons to be bitter and jaded. They'll have their job losses and divorces; disappointments and come-upins." - And you wonder why I wrote the post I did?

GenerationXpert -- You told me in your comment on Brazen that you had nothing against Gen Y. Then, I see this blog and your comments and how you were "amused" with my post. All I see in these comments is the hope that Gen Y (and actually, specifically myself) to be put in their place. So, because I'm passionate and determined and feel like I'm able to make an immediate contribution, I am suddenly a surefire target for this type of criticism?

Man, talk about an easy way to extinguish bright flames. Sheesh.

J. Varon said...

@Anonymous - No wonder you post anonymously. Singlehandedly, you proved the validity of my entire post while criticizing it.

Anonymous said...

@ J.Varon - I have a strong suspicion that the reason you are getting negative feedback is not because you are young and enthusiastic, but because you come off as arrogant.

I was amused by your post. Not disgusted. Not angry. Amused. Why? Because I (and probably most of the Xers who posted here) thought the same way once.

You can come back and post again, but the fact that you need to respond to every negative comment you get (even when it's not on your blog) does show a bit of arrogance and a lack of maturity.

In your original post, you complain about how your generation is being labeled and then go on to label other generations. So here's the thing: The generation before me are the Boomers. They can drive you NUTS (sorry Boomer readers, it's true). But they also kicked down the door for most of us women who have reached a certain level of career success.

The funny thing is (and you can ask Naomi, because she's seen me present), I'm a big fan of Gen Y. I think Gen Y has the numbers to effect real change. But that doesn't mean there is no room to grow. That doesn't mean we shouldn't call you on it when you're coming across like a _____ (I'll let you fill in the blank).


Unknown said...

@J.Varon My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek when I wrote my comment, but I will speak with some seriousness: I am tired of the intellectually shallow argument that Gen Y is all grown up and needs to be treated with respect. If you have to ask for respect, you're not respected.

- Napolean [or someone who is old, dead, and important]

PS - Do I have children? I'm a writer, and in that context, you've written a sad and very mean comment from one woman to another.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Is that chick insecure or WHAT? We've obviously hit a nerve or she wouldn't flame every comment w/in a 100-mile radius.

But on the plus side, there's no such thing as bad publicity for your blog. Mazel Tov!!! Quite the interesting blog you lead...

J- said...


We (GenX, or at least me) do NOT consider us to be "bitter and jaded".

Life at the hands of Baby Boomer parents and Baby Boomer corporate management has taught me to take what one can from the situation or job, and move one when the situation is no longer suitable to my personal or family needs.

That's not cynical or jaded, that's called being a realist. I expect that companies pay me for the service I provide. I know that a company has no reason to show me any kind of loyalty or compassion, that they only have to accord me the business acumen of timely payment. I also know that I am free to terminate a business relationship with a company for any reason what-so-ever. I think it's called "at will employment".

Let's face it, if a company closer to home offers you a 50% increase in renumeration and better insurance and more vacation, are you going to say no on the outset, because of "loyalty"? Or are you going to listen to what they have to say? This whole "Gen Y - Baby Boomer - Gen X" thing is going exactly the way the Baby Boomer management wanted: we're all going to be independent contractors.

There are those of us (like me) who continue to snicker at the Gen Y's because of their "demands" and "how they'll change" corporate America. I postulate that the damage has already been done. I think most of GenX that I know has already adopted the notion there's no such thing as loyalty or retirement, not out of bitterness or other hostility, but simply that prudence requires it.

I'm not bitter. I'm not jaded. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but am smart enough to know to step aside in time for the oncoming train to pass.

J. Varon said...

I don't have to respond to every comment I get. I like to. It's part of being a blogger -- to respond not just when someone praises you, but when someone criticizes you.

If you're going to discuss me on your blog, then I want a part of the conversation.

But, of course, that makes me immature and arrogant? I just can't win.

@Laurie -- How in the world did I offend both you as a writer AND as a woman? I think you need to reread my comment.

Anonymous said...

Well, I’m finding the comments from the original blogger even more hilarious than the original post. You go Suzanne and Laurie. I can tell you that I had the quintissential X’er response to the post – a big fat roll of the eyes. You don’t have enough space for me to comment on everything so here are my favorite parts:

“We know what we deserve.” – In the real world, just because I feel that I deserve something doesn’t mean that other people believe I deserve it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m going to get it. I have to prove it and the best way to do that is to translate “deserve” into something tangible. For example, if you feel that you “deserve” a promotion then volunteer to lead a special project or reach out and mentor someone more junior. That will show that you have the skills to perform at the next level – which means you’re way more likely to get the promotion than if you approach it by saying that you “deserve” it.

“Generation Y does not want to become much like the generations before us: jaded, bitter, and pessimistic.” – Yeah, right, because that’s exactly what previous generations wanted. Sorry, this is not a generational issue. No one wakes up in the morning saying hey today’s going to be a good day because I’m going to start showing my bitterness to the world.

“Companies need to remember that an overly experienced person did not create the most popular and revolutionary social networking site of our time. A 23 year old did. “ – Please don’t try to start a pi***ng match about which generation created the best companies. Go watch War Games (a classic Gen X movie) – any attempt to stack up generational achievements leads to total annihilation. For every one of your Facebooks the Xers will match you with the Googles of the world and the Boomers will bring up Apple and Microsoft and the so on. You can’t win this argument. No generation can – every generation has wunderkinds who do amazing things in their 20’s – the trick is that you have to find the right environment or company to do what you personally are interested in doing.

Anonymous said...

@JVaron - I'm not Laurie but I'll take a stab at explaining to you why your comments to her were offensive. You asked "Do you have children?" as if whether or not she has children has any bearing whatsoever on the compassion she can feel to a younger generation in the workplace. Whether or not Laurie is a mother is completely irrelevant - and it's incredibly insensitive for you to bring it into the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Blogger,

I still stand by my Wah wah wah effin' wah comment to you. When I was younger and in my 20s, I was also enthusiastic and brimming with good ideas and energy. I'm now 40, and still brimming with enthusiasm, good ideas, and energy. All are tempered with a little bit of caution, common sense, and experience -- what you might refer to as bitterness and pessimism, perhaps.

There's nothing wrong with wanting respect, but as one respondent put it, you also have to earn that respect, instead of wiggling like an over-enthusiastic Labrador who sniffs crotches and jumps on people to get attention.

I earned the respect of my co-workers from early on for a few reasons. Some of them are so painfully obvious I shouldn't even mention them, but I will, for those who are afraid to state the obvious. I was on time for work. That meant I was at work before starting time, and ready to work when the doors opened. I didn't walk in right at 9 a.m. and wander over to make my coffee, take a piss, and then sit down at my job and get busy.

I treated other people with respect and courtesy, even if I didn't like them. Some people, whom I actively disliked, never knew. That doesn't make me a hypocrite (I'm really not psychic, but I can anticipate this response from you already) but makes me a considerate person to employ. Customers and co-workers were treated respectfully.

If I didn't know how to do something, I asked for help. Help was given. I thanked the person for their help. I didn't slink off and try to avoid the job I didn't know how to do, or pawn it off on someone else.

If I made a mistake, I admitted it and did my best to fix it and be sure it didn't happen again.

I had a sense of humor and didn't over-react every time someone told an off-color joke or comment. People are compelled to apologize for swearing in front of me for some reason, and though it didn't bother me at all, I let them persist in that misconception. If nothing else, it reminded them that someone else in the room might appreciate the apology.

I minded my own business. If someone asked for my opinion or help, that was different from me offering my opinion or help when it might not have been wanted or welcome.

I learned new job skills so I could bring them to the workplace.

I didn't shirk from overtime, evening, or weekend shifts if it was my turn on the schedule. I didn't whine about my children, my boyfriend, my spouse, my vacation, my shopping, my whatever having to suck hind-tit because of my scheduled shift.

I didn't keep my i-pod plugged in my ears at work to tune out co-workers and customers. I-pods are for your own time, not work time. I didn't set up my accounts at facebook and MySpace on work time.

I dressed for the job, not for after hours at the dance club. This means I wore professional wear when it was called for, or I wore business casual, or work boots. It doesn't mean I wore belly-button, muffin-top, ass-crack exposing shirts and slacks. It also means I didn't wear sandals and flip flops to the office because they're just so freaking CUTE. Fashion has its time and place, and the latest doesn't always belong in the work place.

This is all called Work Ethics. Work Ethics includes many things, but the above just touches briefly on a few. Oh, and I also didn't fuck the boss or his/her underlings either. I did my job, I did it well, and any promotions I got were earned. Was I a model employee? Perhaps not by everyone's definition, but my previous employers would be happy to have me back.

Now, I was generally well-treated by the people I worked for, and the people I worked with. And you are absolutely correct in saying that just because SOME were mistreated at work doesn't mean that ALL who follow should get the same bad treatment. I would suggest that the respondent you were replying to mean that he/she had to "put in his time" and "work his way up," and so, therefore, should anyone else who follows.

Now, all this acidic and acerbic bitchiness aside, if you aren't getting the respect and consideration (in all aspects) that you feel you deserve, is it possible you aren't doing the things you should do to earn it? Are there such personality conflicts at your place of employment that what you're looking for just isn't going to happen in this lifetime? Is it possible, just even minutely possible, that it isn't really "everybody else" ALL the time, but just maybe it's YOU some of the time, who is causing problems? Be completely honest with yourself, now. None of this, "but I SAID" or "That's NOT what I meant," or "If everybody would JUST" stuff. If everybody you come in contact with, from Gen-X on up (agewise) treats you like a kid, then maybe it's because you act like one.

Carla S. said...

Well I'm a bit late to this discussion, but ditto, ditto and ditto.

Maybe we are bitter. Maybe we do dismiss Gen Y as self-centred and as demanding validation. But geez, girl, demanding we respect you is just stamping your feet before a tantrum.

I do have kids, and do have heaps of compassion, but my kids better not grow up as whiny about their changing lot in life as your generation is. Gen X isn't bitter for no reason -- every 20-something generation resents the generation before them. Did you ever hear about the 60s and the expression "Don't trust anyone over 30"? Those were the boomers, and now look at them.

Anonymous said...

I actually liked the post. (I put this comment up on the brazencareerist as well): As a Gen-X'er (with Millennial kids), I see the Millennial generation as an important shift in our society. But it is important to remember that Gen-X'ers got all that cynicism and pragmatism from some very real experiences. The idealism of youth (particularly in the Millennial generation) is definitely not something that should be suppressed, but the pragmatism of Gen-X mid-lifers should be harnessed as well. Our President is a Gen-X'er and it shows in his pragmatic approach to governance. I know from personal experience that many Millennials have a tough time with the cynical attitude of Gen-X'ers, but we both have a lot to learn from each other.
The other thing to keep in mind is that a large part of the Millennial generation is parented by Gen-X'ers (older Millennials have Boomer parents). We are a pretty over-protective bunch when it comes to parenting, and I believe that trait can be harnessed in the workplace as well. Gen-X'ers think on a very individual basis, and we don't trust large groups or institutions. I would suggest looking for mentors who are Gen-X'ers. If you make that personal connection they will probably come to realize that you ARE indeed special. And you can gain a deeper understanding into why we are such a cynical bunch. Millennials can help Gen-X'ers believe again. Gen-X'ers can help Millennials get things done in the world. We need each other more than ever now.
I put up a post recently about the differences between Millennials and Gen-X'ers in how they see networks. I would love to hear your comments.

Unknown said...

Count me in the Gen X-ers who just rolled my eyes. Yes, optimism and excitement about a job are wonderful things, and yes we all deserve a level of respect in the workplace.

But here's the thing - you have to earn more than just a basic level of respect. When you walk in an office on your first day, you're the new kid. Yes, everyone else needs to "be nice" to you, but not everyone is going to. It's your job, although not usually stated in your job description, to earn your place in a company.

I'll use me as an example (mainly because I'm on the tail end of Gen-X so there is no "you're too old to get this" argument) When I go in for my first day I am enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity. Because I experience those emotions, I want to learn from the people around me. I want to see how they do things. I want to understand the corporate culture so I can find my place and get to work.

Then, after I learn the corporate culture, learn how and why they do things, earn a level of respect for doing a good job, and develop a relationship with those people within my company -- THEN I am in a position to provide input about things that could be improved or changed. Then I can say with some true understanding "I think we can make more of a difference to our clients/employees if we consider changing this." And then back it up.

The thing I've seen so many times is people bouncing in, fresh out of college, even with a shiny new MBA, who demand the same respect as managers who've spent 10+ years building a reputation in the company, and wanting to change everything without even understanding the why.

And don't get me wrong, there are organizations that need change. But positive changes don't come from demanding to be heard just because you can speak too. Honestly, how many real changes happen overnight? It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes the realization that to make a difference you have to let go of your own ego and desires, step back and look at the bigger picture. It's not all about you and your wants. That's not a generational gap, that's a perception gap.

I know plenty of Gen-Yers who get it. I know plenty of Gen-Xers that don't. I know some Baby Boomers that don't either.

This has turned into a long comment, but the point is - respect is earned. Work ethics are still important, even more so in a changing work environment. It's okay to want to change the world and make a difference, but bringing water to the African plain is not as simple as grabbing a bucket or a really long hose and getting on a plane. If it was, everyone would do it. And if respect were that easily earned, everyone would have it.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the Brazen Careerist, especially her article on the 5 trends on this present downturn.

I agree with her on the economic generational resentments. We cannot continue the old paradigm of tax cuts and have/havenots (Monetarism) OR tax and spend/share the wealth economics (Keyesianism). But, I do believe that this new administration (Obama) is the harbinger of a new paradigm.

It will be up to us, the boomer busters, Gen Xers and Yers, and Millenials, to clean up the mess.

I am one of those Busters whose career mirrors the Gen Xers. I have never gotten the benefits of the Boomers, and I am the beginning of the "clean it up" generation.

I can't tell you how many jobs I've had where I translated corporate culture from paper to web, leaving me without a situation right before any benefits or tenure or positions of stability kick in.

I'm tired of the denial from above and the whining from below. I always strive to keep the best of both worlds as the next downsizing wave hits each company I work with.

And, when my transition time is done, I'm gone. This downturn will be particularly gruelling. If you're not tech savvy AND corporate savvy, you will be the weakest link and eliminated.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Kelly - respect is earned. I've had issues with GenY folks in my workplace who, as others have said, come storming right in ready to make their mark from day 1, not even knowing thing 1 about the company, job, industry etc.

I have a GenY in my group, who, during his 1st week of employment here informed me his goal was to get promoted within 6 months. He had not yet performed job duty #1. He also wanted me to tell him everything he'd need to know to get there. Not what to DO (that I could've helped with) but just to infuse him with all of my knowledge. I reiterated frequently that it was all about exposure and that there's no substitute for EXPERIENCE. I'm happy to say he's come a long way and did get that promotion, because he earned it with his work.
Work is a meritocracy, folks - and I wouldn't change it. I like the hustle.