EAP Corner

Bridging the Multi-generational Workforce (Part 3) Generation Xers

We have begun a series of articles regarding the wide spectrum of ages in the workforce. With the possibility of five generations working together comes diversity and challenge requiring understanding and appreciation of what each generation may bring to the table.  Understanding the values and what motivates each generation helps bring success to the company and enhances the employee’s work environment.

We have covered the grand generation, people born between 1922 to 1944, and the baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1964. See our previous articles for more information on what makes these generations thrive and be successful. This article will cover the Generation X born between 1965 and 1979. The upper limit of this generation has been as high as 1982 and the lower limit as low as 1963. The category would put people between 53 and 39 years old and possibly extending this from 36 to 55 years.   (Tolbize, 2008)

The Gen X generation has been through both the double-digit inflation and growing up with parents who faced times of unemployment. As a result, they don’t tend to rely on their employers for their long-term stability.  They spend their energy investing in their own development (versus their organization) and are considered a self-reliant generation. They also are cautious about investing in employer relationships with the history of learning these relationships might be unreliable.  For this generation, loyalty means a two-week notice and loyalty is situational. They value independence and creativity, setting clear goals and preferring to manage their own time and solve their own problems versus having them managed by a supervisor.  In general, they have a casual approach to authority. They value information and need continuous feedback, enabling them to use that feedback to adapt to new situations.  This generation is flexible and value this along with risk-taking. For them, change is normal and desirable.  (Clayton, 2006)

Unlike the baby boomers who work hard to move up the ladder, this generation works hard with the focus of finding quicker and more efficient ways of working so they have time for other things such as time to balance work and life responsibilities. They seek a sense of family. These are the “latch-key” kids as both parents may have worked during their growing up years; they don’t necessarily want to be workaholic with their families.  They are conscious, however, of the perks claimed higher up on the ladder. (Clayton, 2006)

Supportive behaviors and tips when communicating with Gen Xers include using email as the primary communication tool, talking in short sound bites to keep their attention, asking for and giving regular feedback and sharing information with them regularly to keep them in the loop.  Generally using an informal communication style is most effective.  (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, 2018)

This generation tends to like projects and prioritizing them as they need, likes to have time to pursue other interests, seeks to have fun at work, and likes to work with information, managing it well and wanting the latest computer technology.

In general, this generation may appear disloyal and slacking but they seek balance and quality of life.  They watched their parents be loyal and work 50+ hours only to be laid off.  They will not likely be motivated by money as much as quality of life.

As you consider your colleagues and people on your team, consider how you say things rather than what you say, understand the different generational motives, keep an open mind about attitudes and embrace diverse opinions. It is really up to the individual employee to step up and consider the differences their colleagues bring to the table and then choose to approach situations in a way that will be easily received by the other person.

Works Cited

Clayton, S. &. (2006, February 8). Generations at work. Retrieved from Work Life Solutions.

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association. (2018, March 8). Tips to improve interaction among the generations. Retrieved from www.honolulu.hawaii.edu/.

Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Driven to Discover, 3.



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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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