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4 Ways Candidates Can Practice "Extreme Job Hunting" Without a Catwoman Costume....

Gen X vs. Gen Y - Who's Better?

When's the last time you read an article about the collective situation of Gen X? 

Right - because no one cares.  Nirvana, Eddie Vedder, the grunge thing, maybe a little bit of angstEddievedder  thrown in - that was about it.  Then Gen X went to work.  No blogs talking about how much work is intolerable, no helicopter parents questioning our rejections - just plugging into working America and figuring it out. 

By the time everyone started talking about the Boomers retiring and how self-absorbed Gen Y was, we were part of the machine.  Looking a little bit like boomers, and ultimately a bit like Gen Y.

We're the middle children of history man... We are Jan Brady.. Compliant and serviceable, but not featured on the cover of the brochure... It's always Marcia, Marcia, Marcia....

What's got me thinking about that?  Ryan Healy has a post up called "A Message to Gen X" at Employee Evolution.  From Ryan's riff:

"Most of the questions I get from Human Resources and Recruiting professionals about Generation Y are the same. They are all about why this generation expects to get so much so fast, why we feel entitled to flexibility, why we think we deserve high pay immediately, and so forth. The thing that surprises me every time is that it’s not the Baby Boomers who are so upset with Gen Y, it’s the Gen Xers. The more I pay attention, the more obvious it is that it’s the Gen Xers who think we’re just lazy, entitled Millennials.

The problem is that Generation X did not get what they asked for, and Generation Y is seemingly being catered to like we are owed something."

Ryan's take includes the opinion that Gen Y is better positioned to take the reigns from the Boomers than Gen X - due to the following factors - 1) better demographics (raw numbers), 2) better use of technology, and 3) better teamwork.  It's an interesting read, worth your time.

Here's my take - numbers are numbers, so if Gen Y has more people, that's cool.  But I honestly don't know a Gen X professional who is upset about the attitude of Gen Y.   The coolest thing for me as a Gen X'er is that the Y's are focused on work/life balance, and that has a spillover effect to everyone in the workforce.  As for the technology piece, if an X is in trouble because they haven't kept up with technology or marketing trends that follow, that's an individual limitation you can't pin on our entire generation.

I'll leave the teamwork evaluation for another day.

When it comes to stereotypes about generations, see this post by John Hollon of Workforce.  It may have been obvious to you, but amidst all the talk about the Millennial, I forgot one very important fact.  Some of them aren't going to be very good.  Some will be great, some will be average, some are going to stink. 

The workplace sorts it all out on an individual level.  Big box stereotypes about entire generations are marketing hype.

Now - back to my Nirvana/Pearl Jam collector's business on eBay....



no STP in your ebay collection? They got a raw deal coming onto the scene behind Nirvana and PJ, but they are (arguably) just as good and their music holds up just as well today. Plus, they continued to be relevant long after Cobain's suicide and Eddie's recoil from mainstream fame.



Great comments. I agree that you can't pin anything down on one generation. Although I've probably fed into the hype about millenials expecting too much, I would agree that no matter what generation you refer to, there are going to be winners as well as losers, motivators as well as procrastinators, people with vision as well as those who are lazy, etc.

We must take the best that every generation has to offer and meet the challenges that lie ahead if we are going to be a great nation once again. It is often these times of economic uncertainty that we have the ability to focus on how to once again achieve greatness for our country.

We must all work together in the spirit of teamwork so that we can transition our Boomers out to eventual retirement and move our Gen X and Gen Y counterparts into leading us into the next decade or two.

Miss Cybernaut

I have finally revealed whats this crap about Gen X and Gen Y about.
Someone noticed "Its strange how Gen Y is fully convinced that we actually care about what they think and keep posting us ...?? "
For me, its enough :)



As a millenial, it's awesome to finally see someone look at this logically. Some of my peers are lazy self entitled fools, others are brilliant.

I am sure that this is no different for any generation. You look around and see the good, the bad, and the completely idiotic.

Unfortunately, the people who can look at the generational hype and dismiss it are in the minority.

Keep on posting.

PS Nirvana Rules :-)


I just laugh a lot at the names for each generation...You know...we are people...and not sheep..I hope


As a leading edge Gen Xr (born 1967) I agree that "we" seem to be heads down and engaged in business and have fallen off many radars. I also agree that no X-peers in my network seem bent out of shape about Yr's attitudes. Most Xrs in my world are a hopeful about the role of Yr's in changing the work:life ratios as well as technology leading to a better community.


I liked this post - very thoughtful and not the normal rumblings and rantings of the common generation divides we normally see.

There does seem to be a "whats in it for me" attitude with the few professional Gen Y'ers that I have come across.

As for us, Gen - X, I think we got caught in the transitional revloving door of the shopping mall.

We saw the birth of the internet - but it wasn't capable of doing what we needed it do.

We had email - the great communication tool of our generation.

Cell phones were beginning to appear - but they weighed 5lbs and couldn't fit comfortable in you pocket or ear.

We were on the cusp of greatness but it was only the cusp - all the greatness landed in Gen Y's lap... maybe...

Who knows - your point of individuality is key. There are many Baby Boomers who are on Twitter and the like who didn't grow up with the technological advantages that both Gen X and Y had - and in most cases they are the ones we are working for!

laurie ruettimann

I think this article is so insightful. Gen X is self-deprecating and Gen Y is all about marketing, team building, and leading by consensus.


Gen X doesn't take itself seriously and we're not interested in operating 'brazen'ly and making a big deal out of it. When we see a Gen Y kid operating with youthful optimism -- and someone who buys into the status quo -- we are embarrassed for him.

karen mattonen

awesome post - and re the big box Stereotypes about entire generations being marketing hype - So on the mark.. kinda like the "war for talent" hype that we had been hearing for many years.. ah, another subject.

Back in the Day the Baby Boomers were the "flower kids" - acid, hippies, woodstock, free love, long hair, upheaval, "love and Peace" - their parents wondered when they would grow up and stop caring so much.. (there always a cause for this generation to fight for.. ) - , signs said stay off the grass - that means hippies and dogs.. the boomers did not plan for their future, they didn't plan for any future.. it was live for the day man..

The boomers wrote the book on rejection of tradition, the workplace, and conformity. Not Generation Y

There wasn't much talk about generational differences in the workplace.. but there was talk about them even working at all..

My personal opinion, the internet created mass hysteria! Seriously.. Didn't our parents think that our generation (Y) were slackers as well.. and they Were the flower Power kids

Is it not possible that if the internet had been back in the good ole day that there would not be the same concerns, how do companies get along with the boomer generation, or the X generation

My son is a Y Generation - he is the average slacker, and sure he thinks he is entilted tremendously.. but, he goes to work every day at a company that has strict corporate policies. The policies are very consistent, rigid, and are based upon the orginal founder's personal beliefs.

My son, he does as he is told, adapts to the policies, but funny thing is, he loves where he works, as it is truly a fair and reasonable place to be employed. He has been promoted at least 3 times in the past 1 year.

Yes, when he takes that suit off, he is truly a royal pain in the Arse. His sense of entitlement goes way beyond none..

I believe that we make more of this than necessary. If companies just continued w/business as usual as they have done in the past centuries, having Set rules, consistent rules and guidelines in the workplace that are the bylaws of employment..

This is what you have to do to get your check..

then there wouldn't be so much of an issue.. All the generations before this one had to adapt, so would it be so difficult for them to do so as well..

what do you think?

Karen Mattonen


Agree completely. Also think much of it is attitude. I think Gen Xers who fit into their company's philosophy are often mistaken for Boomers (I have been). Since we're in the middle and most companies don't share age information, Gen X isn't as easy to identify.

The workplace has always had to adapt to younger workers coming in, just as workers have had to adapt to their company's way of doing things. Every successful company can balance the two.


I don't think Gen Xers are the middle children as much as the secret society. Frankly, we do our thing and "don't have a parade about it" (to quote Jeff Gordinier). Amazon.com, Google.com, you can thank Xers for that.

Boomers and Ys love to talk. Xers love to do. And some of the reason we don't get the credit we deserve is that we don't talk about it.

I read Ryan's original post on Gen Y and was really disgusted by it. And I like Ryan. He's a great blogger. But this Gen Y is the end-all-be-all is simply not true. Maybe they will be all that - but it's way to early to tell.

You say that Y has the numbers, which is true, but X now has the experience. When I was 22, I may have thought I knew it all and could do it all - but I didn't and I couldn't.

My prediction is that small little Generation X will step right into the leadership roles left by the Boomers - and as always, it will take less of us to accomplish our goals.

Ryan S.

I am in the gen Y group and I will say we, as a group, feel like we want more and at a faster pace. In comparison to past generations it is safe to say that as the years go on the same generalization will be spread about the generations to come. As younger people lose their attention spans grow shorter our growth expectations get larger. What will be most important as the younger people come into the workforce is learning from those that have come before us.

Young people need to stop writting-off people older than them and vice-versa. I have learned a lot from baby boomers and generation xers. I know I have a lot more to learn. I also believe that the previous generations have to learn from the generations yet to come. We all have something to give and it is time to break down the invisible barriers that are put up. Remember... learning is an ongoing experience, old and new dogs can learn new tricks!

Marsha Keeffer

Gen Xers I know are all about execution - they're very goal-driven and many started working at quite a young age. Gen Y? 12 to 14 million bigger than the Boomers, and I see them as a sprinkling of everything. Demanding? Yes. And they'll probably be the first ones to actually do corporate jobs ad be themselves. I think that's great for everyone.

Deb Owen

Anybody else remember that Time Magazine article talking about how Gen X was going to change the world of work? And Boomers thought we were punks who had the audacity to even (gasp!) change jobs! (Oh my! Remember back in the day when people didn't do that?)

I think a lot of this is typical generation-to-generation stuff. We're just hearing so much about it because we didn't have blogs and online communities and couldn't (as Laurie said) write about ourselves and how much we were going to rock the world back then.

And I think that it's too early to say that Gen Y will change everything. Some of them will be great and change the world. Some won't. And most will fall somewhere in between.

All the best!

Gettin' old

The thing I find baffling is the lack of any rebellious or non-conformist streak in the younger set. I keep hearing about how 'innovative' Gen-Yers are, but I just don't see it. If anything, there seems to be a real fear of rocking the boat or of not pleasing people - whether it's their boss, or particularly their peers. I find they don't seem to be comfortable disagreeing with people around them and don't seem to know how to handle any sort of contrarian thinking. It seems to confuse them.

Gen-X for the most part had old-school parents who set curfews and so forth so most of us couldn't wait to get out and were often on our own by 18. Our whole lives had been spent until adulthood under a lousy economy, which is why there was the cynicism and distrust of authority.

Meanwhile, Gen-Y for the most part had parents that wanted to be their friend. That has its downside too, but it does seem that a lot of under-30s still live with their parents but can come and go as they please. They have the independence of living on their own, but rent free.
Then, apart from a pretty minor blip of a recession in 2002, the economy until now has been pretty decent since these kids were in high school.
As a result, I find that Gen-Yers have no real rebellious instinct, none of the anti-corporate ethos people my own age had. Where they do have an anti-corporate attitude, it seems to be more of a mercenary sensibility than any concern about how or society is structured or other 'big' questions.
Hopefully that will change. This lousy economy might be a rude awakening, but the confidence this lot has been raised with should get them through it better than earlier generations.


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As a person from generation x, I'm a little partial :) I'm sorry but our music was way better!!

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