Monday, August 2, 2010

What's Wrong With Generations X and Y?

I just attended a business conference with the most intelligent and highly educated speaker I think I have ever heard.  His name was Dr. John Howard, MD, MPH, JD, LLM.  I leaned over to my co-worker and told her that he was "the smartest guy in the room" by far.  He had some very interesting statistics about the make up of the workforce in this country and about where that make up was expected to go in the near future.  The thing that really didn't sit well with me was his facts on the Generation X and Generation Y portion of the workforce.

From 2000 to 2010 there was a 9% drop in the number of workers ages 35 to 44 (Generation X).  This is expected to continue thru the year 2020.  During this time, workers in other age categories will increase.  What the heck!

Generation X is made up of people born between 1965 and 1980, followed by Generation Y (born 1980-2000).  In the study presented by Dr. Howard, from 1992 to 2002, Generation X'ers desire for jobs with greater responsibility fell from 69% to 54%, while Generation Y's desire dropped to 60%.  So in other words, those in Generation Y are demanding higher level jobs at a higher rate than Generation X (although not by much).  And, this decline happened during the '90's.  What happened in the '90's that caused the younger generations to lose the motivation and drive for jobs with higher responsibilities?  And, why is it worse for Gen X than Gen Y?  What's wrong with responsibility and with being in charge?  These positions set the standard for business.   They set the rules of business.  They are some of the change agents of the world.

I'm a little frustrated that the younger generation is more likely to be my boss in the future than I am to be theirs (statistically - I'm definitely not in-line with my generation).  Now, look at these next figures.

According to this study, Generation X values are less aligned with the organization than any other generations (of the 4 generations since 1928).  Even Generation Y is more highly aligned with the organization's values than X.  Gen X is also near the bottom (very closely followed by Gen Y) when it comes to caring about the fate of the organization. 

What in the world is going on with people born between 1965 and 2000?  And, are we passing on this apparent apathy to our kids?  With this much apathy, it is my opinion that the "cream will rise to the top".  That's why those of you reading this need to be aware and take action.  Be more motivated than the average Gen X'er and Gen Y'er.  I think there is real opportunity for the 30 and 40-somethings to get into positions of authority and make a difference.  Get into the top of the class (so to speak).  That doesn't appear to be too hard unfortunately.  Take some initiative.  Don't be part of the 9% drop in workers from our generation over the next 10 years.  And if you can't get aligned with the values of the organization, then by all means, start your own!  Do something!

I hope that reading this makes you feel unsettled just like it does me.  My business conference had a lot of other information in it today, but the rest of it was a very distant second compared to Dr. Howard's presentation. 

Let's reverse this trend.


  1. I would point your attention to a book: The Age Curve, by Kenneth Gronbach, where he talked about the relative lack of power of Gen Xers [he is a boomer himself, if I remember right], though he accepted the fact that Gen Xers were more educated and even affluent than the boomers.

    I was born in India, within 1965-1985 period. I am counted as an Xer, though I believe it is the wrong label and my generation is actually the boomer generation for India.

    However, I would think that every generation makes a contribution of their own - and Gen X did its bit for America [what about World Wide Web, eCommerce, Search Engines and Mobile Phones]. There are fewer of Gen Xers than boomers, but it does not seem to matter, because Gen Xers expanded the productivity significantly.

  2. Hi, Chris. Thanks for visiting my blogs, Be Your Own Boss and The Happy Entrepreneur.
    I agree with you about the sad lack of initiative amongst some of the younger generation.
    People don't seem to want to take responsibility for themselves.
    I designed 'Prospecting for Gold' as a way of holding prospective entrepreneurs by the hand metaphorically speaking until they find their feet. Have you visited Show Me Financial Freedom ?


    development for the internet came long before. Developed in 1969 it was used for American Military for digital communications. By the time most here was able to use a computer, the basis of the infrastructure was already there and Gen X and Y only was able to expand from this. If it was never privatized, we would still not have it, or would be under the control of the US Government.
    Sorry if this blows your bubble.
    So, what does Gen X and Y really want? The answer seems to be "something for nothing". I have seen this first hand far too many times to count. They typically want the pay of the experienced, but do not have no where near the experience required and really do not want to gain the experience.