Thursday, June 24, 2010

Generation X

*sigh* I've always hated that title for my generation. Remember when Pepsi tried to coin the phrase "Generation Next"? Equally bad. You want to know what I think of when I see X anything? Generic. Nice, huh? Anyway, at lunch I was flipping through an old issue of Ladies' Home Journal and ran across Workplace Wars and it got me thinking about the differences in the generations.

For the purposes of this post, we're using the following terms:
Baby Boomer (Boomer): Those born in the post-war era; between 1946 and 1964
Generation X (Gen X): Those born between 1965 and 1980
Millennials: The new kids on the block; born between 1981 and 2000

The Clinic
I work in a multi-specialty medical office (2 primary care providers and 2 chiropractors) and though we don't have "wars" between the generations, we definitely have our share of differences in opinion. There are 4 practitioners, 7 nurses/medical assistants and 7 reception/billing staff. The breakdown of ages goes like this: Of the 18 people, we have 11 Boomers (60%), 2 Gen X-ers (12%) and 5 Millennials (28%).

For the most part, we get along. We should all be so lucky to have such a great job and great employers! However, when things go wrong and somebody is shown the door, who do you think it is? More often than not, it's a Millinneal. Why? Because they're not putting in the necessary effort to get the basics of the job done. Or they're constantly on their personal phone or on the computer doing whatever. Or because they just don't *hear* what their "elders" are telling them over and over again and refuse to see the point.

On the Boomers: "They (Boomers) believe in working hard, dressing appropriately, logging long hours, and paying their dues." Do I agree with this? Absolutely. It's what I based my working life on. It's what my parents taught me.

On the Gen X-ers: "(Gen X-ers) grew up in an era of feminism, divorce, working moms, and latchkey kids. Between Watergate, recession, and mass layoffs, cynicism became one of their defining characteristics." "They're independent, resilient, and extraordinarily creative and entrepreneurial, but they don't have much trust in institutions. They constantly look around for the next opportunity; they travel light." Do I agree with this? For me, personally? Not completely. My parents are not divorced. My mom worked IN the home. However, my parents taught me I had to work for what I wanted, therefore, I am (very) independent, resilient and creative. But to disagree with the last statement, I am not always looking around for the latest and greatest - I am very loyal. However, I guess I'm one of the lucky ones because I see a lot of "kids" my age who are not as driven, who don't have the same work ethic.

On the Millennials: "Millennials are technokids, glued to their cell phones, laptops, and iPods. They've grown up in a world with few boundaries and think nothing of forming virtual friendships through the Internet or disclosing intimate details about themselves on social networking sites. And, many critics charge, they've been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance." "Workers of this generation are known for their optimism and energy -- but also their demands." Do I agree with this? Mostly. I've always considered myself the "kid" in an office setting, but I've come to realize that I'm no longer the "kid" - these kids are. It is hard to believe I'm working with people who were born when I was in high school!! That was a little off the point. Anyway, definitely technokids - constantly on the phone and the computer, having to force themselves away back to the working world. However, I don't know about the "coddling" or "hovering" parents because if that were true, wouldn't these kids have better work ethic? Wouldn't they understand that in order to keep their jobs, they have to actually do some work? Or is it that their parents were SO hovering that they didn't have to lift a finger at home? They didn't have to work for their allowances and therefore don't understand that wants = work? Now, the last statement about their demands, I totally agree with. They're all about instant gratification. If they see something they don't like, they'll say something about it and expect it to be fixed to their specifications.

The article brings up the comparison of "dressing appropriately". If there's anything that separates these three generations, "dressing appropriately" is it! In the clinic, the dress code is simple: business casual (slacks, skirts, blouses, polo shirts, etc). The medical assistants have to wear scrubs, but even that can be skewed. We used to have "casual Friday", but some of the people took that too literally and would wear shirts with major cleavage and super tight pants. WTH people?! This is a BUSINESS. And to make matters worse, those people were usually at the front desk. Our front line, if you will. I used to be an instructor for a medical secretary (receptionist) class. We covered a section on interviews and resumes. At one point, I asked the students to put together an outfit they'd wear to an interview. You would not believe the outfits they brought to class!! I brought my standard interview outfit in - khaki pants, blouse and nice shoes. You should've seen all the super short skirts and flip flops. Seriously! Did their parents not teach them anything?! I don't care how great you were in the interview - if you showed up wearing flip flops, you weren't going to get the job. Period. Don't even get me started with the respect issue. There shouldn't be an issue with that...but there is. I know you've seen it. It's a big reason why customer service has gone to land far, far away.

This also brings the whole tattoo culture in to play. Tattoos are becoming more accepted in the general population, but like everything else, they have their time and place. I like tattoos. I have four tattoos, but they're all easily concealed. In fact, I got my first job in New Mexico because the woman who interviewed me remembered my tattoo. But, that's far from the norm. The majority of the Millinneals in my office have tattoos. Some cover their art better than others. But when a patient complains about one of those people, they usually don't remember their names, but they definitely remember "that girl with the (insert image here) tattoo". I'm all for self-expression, but like I said before...this is still a business.

Enough ranting. What about the good stuff? Each generation has good things to teach the next. The Boomers show us that a little hard work really can pay off in the end. I think we all take pride in our work, at least most of us, and nobody does that better than a Boomer. Millinnials get their work done, they just do it quicker because of the constant use of technology. They usually don't have to work extra hours just to get the job done because they're so good at multitasking (which they've had to do from day One). The Gen X-ers? We're kinda the best of both worlds. While we started out working face-to-face, we've been able to incorporate technology in a way that complements rather than distracts us.

As for me? Oh, I'm a Gen X-er, but I lean more toward the values and work ethics of the Boomers. My parents (smack in the middle of the Boomers) taught me right. I'm not saying that the Millinnials are bad, they just have a lot to learn. Is there hope for the Millinnials? I sure hope so. If there isn't, I'd hate to see the unemployment lines in about five years. In the start of this post I said that I didn't like the term Generation X. I like it better now. Why the change of heart? At least I'm not a "Millinnial".

After my read-through before posting, I realize that it sounds like I'm bashing the Millinials. Do I mean to? Kinda. I am not, however, pointing my finger at any one person. This has been more of a general rant at whomever wishes to listen. Agree with me or not, but how many times have you thought "What is with the youth today?" - even as I still consider myself to be the "youth of today".

Listening to: The Hollow by A Perfect Circle
Mood: Gen X-ish


Lacquer Ware for Tips and Toes said...

Interesting post. I'm a genXer and I like it. I probably lean more towards the Millinials way of life...I dress to suit me so its jeans and often times layered t-shirts...however I know not to go tight and low cut. I multi-task like a madwoman and prefer technology and being done and out the door on time or early...not long hours of hard work that is never really appreciated anyways. And I love that the "new" music, like The Hollow by APC (which I see you are listening to - and I love APC) is full of genX performers even tho the Millinials think its 'their' music. I find this post thought provoking and energizing to see where how we have progressed...some good and some bad...but it all makes us who/what we are. I love that.

BTW, I tagged you with an award. Come pick it up at my blog:

keep up the great blogging!

Linda said...

I agree with most of your post. I think the trouble with the Millinials is that they were brought up in a society where nothing was wrong or weren't allowed to get their 'feelings hurt'. As a result, they expect everything to go their way and don't feel it's necessary to work to any accepted norm. "If it's too hard, walk away. If my feelings get hurt, somebody else will pay" seems to be what I hear from that generation. They don't learn from the school of hard knocks and expect everyone to feel they way they do. Sorry for the rant - and the Millinials aren't necessarily to blame - I put the blame on the parents and the school systems. How many times have you gone shopping and had a kid running around with no parent in sight? I think there is hope but a lot of work was not done and needs to be corrected. All of the technology of today is great, but they need to teach the basics - if the cash register isn't working, not many can make change anymore. And, hopefully the art of real conversation isn't going to disappear.
I apologize again for my rant - but boy did it feel good to let it out!

Megan Harmeyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan Harmeyer said...

After reading Lacquer Wear's comment about APC's music and after really listening to The Hollow, I realized it sends a message to both me (the Gen X-er) and the Millinnials. Funny how the Universe works sometimes. "Screaming: Feed me. Fill me up again. Temporarily pacify me." It's as if we're not responsible for our own actions, as Linda pointed out.

ABOP said...

I never thought I was a Gen Xer (always thought they started from 1980) Now I see that I am. Go figure...

Apriltini said...

Oddly, enough we just covered this very issue in a Transition Assistance Program class a couple weeks ago. Almost everything you said about the generations is what was talked about in the class, and I see all of that in the Millenials I've run into. Some take it to the extreme, of course. As a crotchety old Gen-Xer, I just want to smack 'em upside the head and take the blasted iPod away. Stop texting and look the world right in the eye for once. *ahem* Sorry, but it irks me greatly, no matter the age of the offender.

"Wouldn't they understand that in order to keep their jobs, they have to actually do some work? Or is it that their parents were SO hovering that they didn't have to lift a finger at home? They didn't have to work for their allowances and therefore don't understand that wants = work?" I think that's exactly the problem: these kids were brought up in this climate of "everyone gets a trophy", and "there are no losers". I think that does a huge disservice to the kids in developing a work ethic, and a determination to see things through, even if the going is difficult.

Helicopter parenting. *nods* The kids never eat dirt, never get hurt, always get a trophy, even if they didn't try, and their parents want to be their kids' friends.

I've eaten dirt, fallen off my bike a lot, have the scars to prove it, stuck my finger in the electrical outlet, got spanked, and had boundaries set for me that I hated. My mom did a good job raising me, even if I say so myself. :D We didn't do no time out. If I screwed up, it was either a spanking (when i was little) or I got grounded and privileges taken away. Boundaries and consequences. I STILL can't swear in front of my mother. I don't want to get that LOOK, ya know?

Linda said...

You are absolutely right, Apriltini! It's amazing that we lived through our childhood compared to the sheltered lives that the majority of kids have now. There are a few parents that still raise their kids the old fashioned way with rules and manners (my daughter is one of them), but they are far and few between. I figured it was a lost cause a few years back when I over heard this conversation. Adult #1 "Don't you teach your child to say please and thank you?" Adult #2 "No. I figure he will learn it at school."

Megan Harmeyer said...

@Apriltini - I don't know how many times I've said I don't want to be like my parents, but now that I have kids and see what *other* people are doing with their kids, I realize that I *do* want to be like them because they did a good job with me - why not keep up the "tradition". It cracks me up (but makes me a little sad) when people are super protective of their kid and won't let them be a kid. You fell off your bed and bonked your head? It shouldn't be OMG let's get you to the ER because you *might* have a concussion! It should be - come here, get a hug. You're not bleeding. You're fine. Guess you learned a good lesson for next time, huh?

@Linda - Please & thank you were some of the first things I taught my son (you know). Whether he uses it or not is another story, but I've made the effort. I hate that parents leave the teaching to schools and then they wonder what went wrong when they do something really bad (like Columbine). Maybe if you actually paid attention to your kids...?