Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Xers will never grow up to be Boomers

Ever notice how Boomers seem to think everyone over 40 is a Boomer? It makes sense, because "age" is a big issue for Boomers. They'll never grow old.

If you are a Boomer reading this, before you get annoyed, we Xers have our own issue. It's being cool. We don't mind being old, as long as we stay cool. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that discussed why parents all the sudden are cool. I thought to myself when I read it, "Duh, parents are 'cool' today for the same reason that parents in the 80's were 'young' - it's our generation's issue."

But back to my original observation. The reason I started thinking about it was I read this blog post that sited a New York Times study on supporters of the Tea Party. The blog post said "people over 40," but the original article actually said tea party supporters tend to be over 45. It may not seem like a big difference, but it is when you consider the oldest Gen Xers are 45.

Tammy Erickson, herself a Boomer, wrote a great article on Gen X leadership for the Harvard Business Review. In it, she writes that each generation reacts to the excess of the previous generation - and that Boomers' excess is ideology. Therefore it makes sense that Xers would not support the Tea Party with the same force as Boomers.

I think this is an example of the quiet leadership style that Jeff Gordinier describes in this video. I think we'll continue to hear that Millennials are leading on the path to change in the 21st Century, when it's actually the Gen Xers who are doing so. Even Penelope Trunk, blogger extraordinaire and lover of Millennials, says so.

I'd love to hear what you think. Are Gen Xers taking a new path - or just following the Boomers and waiting for the Millennials to show us where to go?


KateNonymous said...

Actually, I think Boomers want to be young and cool, and Gen Xers want to be hip regardless of age. (And yes, I am distinguishing between cool and hip.) I also think that we want to be left alone. Not forgotten, and not left out--those are different, although all too often they're what happens.

Noting those differences (cool vs. hip, left alone vs. forgotten or left out) is something that I think is a Gen X characteristic. One of the problems, though, is that this kind of subtlety is dismissed when surrounded by bombast.

Jennifer Chronicles (jenx67.com) said...

I love PT, but PT loves Gen Y b/c they have the potential to make us all $$. I do think lover of milliennials is a moniker she'd like! very interesting post. You're so knowledgeable. I just soak this stuff up. I never thought about being cool being our issue. Seems like we do this by actually attempting to not do stereotypical cool things.

Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself, I'd say, yeah, being forever cool is a GenXer issue. I don't care so much about getting old as I do about appearing uncool in the process, which for me means accepting the fact that you can't be forever young, something Boomers seem unable to accept.

And I do think that GenXers will lead, sometimes quietly, sometimes not, sometimes a combination. For example: Obama's rise to leadership started quietly but culminated pretty resoundingly. Or course, it is impossible to lead quietly as the leader of the free world, and yet there is a marked difference in his style when compared to Clinton and W.

Speaking of GenX leaders Britian has it's first in David Cameron, who at the age of something like 43 is the youngest PM in what I heard was some 200 years -- did I hear that right? And he did so by building a coalition with Nick Clegg, another GenXer.

What's really interesting about this union is that Cameron is a Conservative and Clegg is a Liberal Democrat. These two may just show how GenXers, despite their differences, can work together in a civilized cooperative ways that Boomers just couldn't/cane seem to manage.

GenXpert said...

@junkdrawer - I agree that Xers are better at working together while being political opposites than Boomers. It goes back to the ideology thing.

On a similiar note, when Xers work in groups they don't need to reach consensus to move forward. This is one of the gaps between Xers and Boomers at work. Boomers want everyone to agree. Xers want everyone to be heard.

associationforecast said...

This post really resonated with me. I truly believe Boomers are waiting for Gen X to "grow up." Well, we are grown up and we didn't "settle down" and become just like them. Our mindset wasn't due to our age, our mindset was due to our perspective.

Kudos to the insightful comment that Gen X wants everyone to be heard while Boomers want everyone to agree. My experience would reflect that sentiment.


Kristina said...

Yes, EXACTLY and not needing everyone to agree, because that cannot and will never happen. Being heard is a matter of respect, though, and we definitely want that.

I used to think my resistance to furious ideological fights was a quirk of mine, but I see here it probably has to do with my Xer status. And I like how you frame it, here, as quiet leadership, coalition-building, and needing to be heard rather than everyone agreeing.

I have tended to worry that my lack of fiery defense of my positions meant I was just chicken, or that it would look that way.

But I just don't see the need to waste my energy and alienate people who will never agree with me no matter how loudly I shout and jump up and down.

Eric Lanke said...

Xers will lead and are leading, in ways that are very different from their Boomer predecessors. I recently blogged about this at http://thehourglassblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/xers-and-recessionary-leadership.html.

Most Xers I know are better at dealing with uncertainty and change than either their older or their younger colleagues. That's because they came of age during a time of great uncertainty, and they watched as the adults in their lives got laid off and abandoned by the companies they had staked their careers on. Because of this experience, GenX learned how to keep its options open, to not put too many eggs in the same basket, and to keep an eye out for themselves because no one else had any reason to.

And this has led to a very pragmatic leadership style, as opposed to the ideological one of the Boomers. The older generation tends to belittle the Xers and their "let's keep our options open" perspective--calling it wishy-washy and indecisive. But for me, it's more about going with what works and abandoning the need to validate a particular perspective or point of view.

GENERATION aleX said...

Generation X gets skipped a lot because we are small. But, I think GenX values individuality and freedom more than boomers...which leads to the statement Boomers are looking for everyone to agree, X'ers for everyone to be heard. Great post! Please check mine out sometime. GENERATIONaleX.blogspot.com