16th September 2015

Working for Generation X: A Guide for the Millennials

Did you all get the chance to read Simon’s recent blog “Managing your Millennials: A user’s guide”? Neither Simon, nor I will ever disclose how much of that was based on our own experience – me as a Millennial and Simon as my colleague. However as Simon has so politely taken the opportunity to share some Millennial managerial advice with you all, I thought I would take the opportunity to provide some advice to the many Millennials out there, who, like me, work directly for the “Generation X Manager”.

What is Generation X?

Generation X covers the population born roughly between 1965 and 1984. Often termed as the ‘MTV Generation’, they were the first generation to grow up with music videos and computers, the first generation to shift from the manufacturing economy to the service economy. Although us Millennials often see ourselves as adaptable to new technologies, Generation X are often not far behind. They have afterall seen a far greater change to society then we have.

How do the personalities of Generation X affect you?

Wandering down the common career path, many Gen Xers currently find themselves in the junior partner/senior associate/middle-management tier of the office environment. This means many of them will be directly responsible for the management of the current Millennials starting out their careers. They will be the ones the Millennials report to, learn from and who will be most influential on their day to day work. For that reason it is important for Millennials to find a way to adapt to their working patterns and to discover the ways to work for them most effectively.

What do Generation X appreciate?

Generation Xers grew up in a time where a lot of mothers were joining workforces and working long hours. As a result many are seen as being independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. They like these qualities to be shown in their junior staff. If you are given a task to do, they much prefer you going away and having a think about it, as opposed to interrupting them with regular questions. Even if you are completely wrong, a Generation Xer will appreciate the fact you have given it a go yourself. Do not be hesitant in voicing your opinion on matters (it is the natural Millennial thing to do!). It shows your manager that you have considered matters and applied some thought to them. You will often stir something in their minds and they appreciate an alternative point of view. Don’t take their scepticism to heart, Gen Xers were brought up independently and many have learnt to question everything. This will only help your progression.

      Millennial & Generation ‘X’: Trust is a two way street


As a general rule Generation X value freedom and responsibility and they like to offer the same to their junior staff. However you need to earn their trust first. This can often take time. If your GenX manager wants you to check all of your emails before they are sent out, and to cc them into everything, then you would be wise to do this. This will not be forever. It is simply your GenX manager finding ways to build up trust in you.

Simon made reference in his blog to have a “trusted relationship” with your Millennials. This is, as he said, a two way street. As your manager builds up trust in you and affords you more responsibilities, they will not get the best out of you unless you trust them. This you can do by asking them questions and understanding why they have made the decisions they have. It is important to listen to what they have to say and react, they were afterall in your position not all that long ago. Gen Xers are results driven and appreciate seeing results coming from their efforts.


A lot of people refer to the Gen X generation as being the ‘latch-key’ kids due to the fact they grew up at a time when both parents would work long hours and at a time when it was not so easy for parents to keep a track of their activities. This, some believe, has led Gen Xers to be sceptical and, managerially, they are believed to adopt a hands off, low face time approach. Despite this somewhat critical perception of them, a recent study has shown that the majority of people see the Gen Xers as being the best managers.

In my experience Gen Xers like to create a fun working environment and adopt a work hard, play hard philosophy. When you first begin in a department Gen Xers will appreciate the efforts you make to integrate into the team. This runs true in both the social and working environment. Gen Xers appreciate enthusiasm and an eagerness to please. Volunteer yourself for work and projects and don’t grimace when being designated tasks. Avoid shirking away from any tricky tasks. Remember Gen Xers will appreciate the intent and the effort as much as the final result.

As long as you are willing to put in as much time and energy and as your Gen Xer, you’ll spend more time  with them than being left in the dog house.



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