Gen X-ers and Millennials: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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By Brittany Newland

Entitled, pampered, The Burnout Generation…these are just a few of the names we are called. Being a millennial, it’s hard not to be hyper-aware of the vast overgeneralization of our entire generation. We think of them as slackers and cynical, jealous of the benefit we had of technology. But we couldn’t help when we were born any more than the Gen X-ers could. So what is there to this unspoken generational competition? Like it or not, these two generations will comprise the majority of the workforce for the next 20 years, so what can we do to end the silent feud so we can get along in the workplace?

When it was time for Generation X to step into the working world, economic growth was slower than a snail’s pace. With barely any job openings and an increase in divorced parents, sharing a number of responsibilities happened with Gen X-ers at an early age. But in total reverse, millennials were born in an age of rapid technology and advancement, shifting of a whole new world on so many different levels. Gen X-ers had to beg for a work-life balance, where millennials straight-up demanded it.

Millennials had more choices such as working “remotely” with the internet and technology always right at their fingertips. Gen X-ers were not raised with the benefit of this constant tool. Generation X had to fight for a lot of what they have today. It came from years of hard work, experience and expertise, whereas millennials were able to quickly research. This allowed them to move up to the top quickly in a fast paced setting. Gen X-ers use technology as a tool to help them make work easier, where millennials have used this as a tool for everything they’ve ever known. For Millennials, everything is quick, shareable, attainable and achievable, so lack of experience is not much of a bother if you are good at your work. This makes millennials both relentless and impatient.

Although both generations have a great understanding of teamwork, they likely work together with very different frames of mind. This can work to both of their advantages in the workplace. Growing up in two different worlds, they can achieve more by working together, no matter how individualistic their work patterns.

Instead of splitting these two generations up, we should make them work together more. Assign them tasks they both seem interested in and they will both find the necessary tools to accomplish these tasks, whether it seems new age or old school. For example, if the task involves research, assign that part to the Gen X-er and have the millennial reach for a fresh new perspective. By creating opportunities for each generation to learn from each other, a new sense of respect and need for the other will naturally develop.

The following are a few ways we can help bridge the generational gap and encourage work collaboration diversity:

  1. Be a Coach/Mentor. Since Gen X-ers are used to more of a hierarchy system in the workplace where millennials are not, Gen X-ers can take a different approach in their management style and/or the ways they treat their colleagues by collaborating in a different way. Gen X-ers can show and teach millennials that they trust and respect them by mentoring them and giving them advice on certain things, instead of being in a more forceful working role with them.
  2. Support Flexible Schedules. In the current generation, mothers are working so much more than when Gen X-ers were fully dominating the workforce. Mothers need time to breastfeed throughout their day, and others need a break to step out and get their heart rate up, or even slow down (in terms of meditation). In working together, we need to respect that no one comes from a single routine and we all need to respect that we have different needs throughout the work days. We can be more aware of this and let flexible schedules exist, as long as they aren’t too far out of line.
  3. Encourage Work/Life Balance. We all need to get better at balancing our work time with our lives outside of work. Since we are now focusing more on good mental health practices, work can no longer come first. Gen X-ers and millennials need to understand each other’s priorities and respect them.

Both generations have something to offer each other in the workplace; and at the end of the day, we are all there for the same reasons—to get the job done. Making small changes for the better of the group could make all the difference for the workplace as a whole.



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