What is Gen X?
Gen X or Generation X is a demographic group of people born between the mid-1960s to 1980. The age range differs slightly between researchers and media houses and some use the early 1960s to late 1970s or early 1980s. However, the common majority consider the range to be from 1965 to 1980.
Gen Xers are born after baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and succeeded by millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Gen Xers are aged between 40 years old and 55 years old as of 2020. As per U.S. Census data, there are about 65.2 million Gen Xers as of 2019. Gen Xers are children of the Silent Generation (which precede baby boomers) and early baby boomers. They are also parents of millennials and Generation Z (which succeeded millennials).
Understanding Gen X
The late 1970s all through to the 1980s was a period of social and cultural changes especially in the United States and these changes had a material impact on Gen Xers. It was a period in which women’s presence at workplaces grew rapidly leading to both parents working.
Hence, Gen Xers, as children, received little or no supervision from their parents for the better part of the day. Their behavior was largely influenced by their peers rather than their parents. The period also witnessed high divorce rates, leading to single parenting, which greatly reduced adult supervision of Gen Xers hence, the label “latchkey generation.”
Gen X is also the generation that was influenced by hip hop, alternative rock, and grunge music. In addition, they are also called the MTV Generation in reference to the MTV video channel, which was largely oriented towards hip hop and grew in viewership during their formative years.
Gen Xers, therefore, appreciate the value of independence and informality and are also technologically savvy, more educated than their parents, and are a more flexible generation. Gen X is attributed to generating a balanced work-life trade-off and is also synonymous with a higher entrepreneurial tendency. Gen Xers are born during an era when birth control was introduced, abortion was legalized, recreational drug use was prevalent. It was also an era of emerging women’s rights.
Characteristics of Gen Xers
Gen Xers grew up in a world that was changing culturally, socially, technologically, and economically. The prevalence of high divorce rates and women empowerment led to little or no adult supervision which allowed Gen Xers to know and experience what was happening around them.
Content of television shows started changing to less idyllic ways of the world such as provocative images of women, sex, nudity, and violence. Media and television aired wide and diverse content, which included international shows, programs, and music. It made Gen Xers to know more and question things without taking everything for granted. Such skepticism should be harnessed and understood by marketers and employers when dealing with Gen Xers.
Gen Xers are more autonomous and independent. They learned to live and rely on themselves after being left alone for long periods of time due to single parenting or being latch key kids where both parents work. Hence, they are efficient alone and are comfortable working solo.
In a productive sense, they work hard and complete tasks in time. Because of increased urbanization, they also tend to rely on friends where they keep closely knit relationships that support each other while being independent of their parents and the outside world. Gen Xers value their freedom and independence and accept responsibilities for their actions. They will try by any means necessary to overcome challenges on their own.
Therefore, in a work setting, Gen Xers should be given more responsibilities, minimum supervision, and be allowed to show creativity. Their resourcefulness and self-sufficiency make them an asset to employers and invaluable to team members when working on projects.
Casual and Unswerving
Gen Xers are more casual beings and are not fond of wearing uniforms like their predecessors, the baby boomers. They like to dress casually even in traditional office workplaces where formal attire is more common. They lived through a time where Friday was becoming popular as a casual dress day. Their approach to issues is more informal and casual although unswerving and direct in their manner.
Gen Xers don’t like to abide by archaic rules and question their existence. They like working in environments of less bureaucracy and flatter hierarchical organizational structures. They were young adults when new organizations such as tech and internet companies started with more casual but efficient structures in terms of communication and information dissemination. Tech and internet dot-com start-ups such as Google, Netscape, and eBay were driven largely by Gen Xers.
Arguably, no generation encountered the need to adapt to changing cultural and workplace conditions like the Gen Xers. They adapt well to changes in their environment and appreciate diversity. The diversity is partly due to the high level of immigrants coming to the U.S. during their time. They needed to learn to interact with diverse cultures in work and social circles, such as Hispanics and Latin Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Africans.
Good Work-Life Balance
Gen Xers generally want a healthy work-life balance where they are able to work hard and find enough time to socialize and spend time with their families. They are fond of taking leave days at work to travel and eat an assortment of food from all over the world.
Unlike their predecessors, the boomers who worked harder, Gen Xers normally want to work smarter. They will go to lengths to secure a good work-life balance. Through the tough times of their upbringing in the 1980s, they are less committed to their employers and want to find time to pursue their aspirations outside work.
Gen Xers possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit as a result of their independent, self-reliant nature. They managed to develop leadership, management, and strategic thinking skills and harnessed technology, which helped them set up new and emerging businesses, such as dot-com companies and other tech-based start-ups.
The strong entrepreneurial spirit was partly helped by their flexibility and direct approach, which gets the job done. They gained a reputation for entrepreneurship in the mid-80s to the 1990s, especially in the technology field. Time Magazine published an article in October 2014 citing Gen Xers as “poised for great leadership.” It went on to say they’re leading most U.S. growth companies.
Gen Xers grew up in a period of changing technology. They were the first generation to grow up with personal computers at home during a transition from analog to digital technology. Hence, they learned how to use personal computers at an early age. They also grew up in a period of the internet revolution and were the first to use cell phones and later smartphones.
Gen Xers are responsible for the boom in information technology jobs in the 1980s and 1990s. The dot-com crash occurred when the oldest Gen Xer was 35 years and the youngest was just 20 years old, meaning they experienced the building of the dot-com bubble and its eventual bursting. Nevertheless, recently Gen Xers are losing jobs in Silicon Valley to millennials, mainly due to age discrimination.
Working with Gen Xers
Gen Xers make up about 35% of the U.S. workforce. Hence, there are suggested ways in which employers with Gen X members of staff can fully optimize their skills and character for the overall profitability of the business.
- They should be allowed to work autonomously.
- They should be given more responsibilities.
- Give them more opportunities for learning and advancement.
- Respect their time. They are usually time-bound and finish tasks within deadlines.
- Ensure they have a healthy work-life balance by ensuring they have enough time to socialize and interact with family and friends.
- Provide low supervision with little or no micro-management.
- Value their experience.
- Communicate in a concise and direct manner.
- Give them an opportunity to work with new technology.
Gen X and Music
Gen X is the first generation to experience the emergence of music videos especially on MTV, hence the moniker “MTV Generation.” This generation is also responsible for the emergence of alternative rock, grunge, and hip-hop music genres.
Popular grunge artists in the 90s include Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, among others, and alternative rock artists include Hootie and the Blowfish, Creed, Collective Soul, Red Hot Chilli Paper, Green Day, among others.
Hip hop is regarded as the music defining Gen X with trending artists such as N.W.A. Nas, Jay Z, Tupac, LL Cool J, KRS-One, MC Hammer, Run DMC among others. The hip-hop golden age occurred from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s and was characterized by innovation, new styles, diversity, fashion, and quality.
Types of hip hop included gangster rap, sex raps, and dance beats. Hip hop lyrics outlined social challenges affecting the urban man such as drugs, crime and violence, culture and religion, and the economy. They also touched on sex, racial politics, black nationalism, gangs in the hood, and urban poverty.
Gen X Favorite Brands
Find below Gen X Top10 favorite brands in 2020. As of 2020, Gen Xers are between 40 years old and 55 years old.
Gen Xers are also comfortable with shopping online but about 72% of them shop in brick and mortar shops, which explains why Walmart and Amazon are in the top 10. Apple is their favorite brand and Netflix comes third due to the influence of television on the Gen X generation.
Gen X and Covid-19 Pandemic
According to researchers, Gen Xers are more capable of handling the demands for safety from the COVID-19 pandemic than other generations because of their latchkey nature in which they learned to take care of themselves and survive at an early age. It means they are able to embrace social distancing and self-quarantine better.
Gen X, as a neglected generation, is comfortable working from home in isolation.
Gen Xers are currently looking after their children and older parents and may be saddled with more debt, particularly mortgage. Hence, they are taking COVID-19 safety precautions more seriously than other generations.
Since Gen Xers are also tech-savvy like millennials, they are able to socialize and interact in isolation with their peers over social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Therefore, it’s easier for them to stay in self-isolation and endure COVID-19 induced lockdowns easily.
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