There's a lot of talk about Millennials today, much of it about the challenges and opportunities presented by Millennials entering the workforce. But as important as those discussions are, they're missing something...a big something.
They're missing a whole generation: Generation X.
When we talk so much about the back and forth between Baby Boomers and the Millennials, the Generation X employees get stuck in the middle. I recently interviewed Brad Szollose, author of Liquid Leadership and an expert on cross-generational leadership issues, and the conversation inevitably fell to what to do about the problems facing Generation X...fast becoming the forgotten generation.
"Generation X is a smaller portion of the population," he said. "They showed up early. They wore the suits. They obeyed the boomers. They listened to everything. They worked very hard on their career and now, they are ready for management, but guess what?" They don't want it.
"A lot of Gen Xers, they've done studies on this, they are not reaching for the big salary and the responsibility of that management role or that upper management role," Brad continued. "They simply don't want it. We've entered into a time where people don't equate hard work with getting ahead, instead they want the work-life balance. I'm sure everybody has heard about it, but what's driving it is they watched their parents work themselves to death and they don't want to do it."
This can lead to a pretty disgruntled section of the workforce. "I would actually have to say this. Generation X is probably the angrier of the two or three of the generations," Brad explained. "The Boomers are sitting there thinking, 'Should I retire? I'm not going to retire.' They are looking out there and they say, 'I don't see anybody who is ready for leadership.'" But they're not ready for leadership, precisely because Boomers are lingering and not creating leadership opportunities. Many Generation Xers are worried that, by the time Boomers do retire, Millennials will be clamoring for the middle and senior leadership roles.
The solution, according to Szollose, is to start training them now--regardless of whether or not employees are in a specific leadership role. It's never too late to get them ready for prime time, but if you don't, prime time might never arrive.