As the oldest of Generation-X, I related to Bret Easton on not understanding the hyper-sensitivity of some in the younger generations. It’s not that I don’t appreciate younger generations, but sometimes when someone says, “Did what I say, offend you?”. I reply, “No, it did not. I don’t like what you said, but it does not offend me.” You can see the disconnect bouncing around in their young minds. What I mean by “offend”, and what they mean by “offend”, are two different things. It’s the Gen-X Generation Gap. In truth is, I come from a generation where very little offends us. It’s not that I don’t have things that I hold dear, sacred or important, it’s just that why would I care that someone else doesn’t value what I think is dear, sacred or important. To this old Gen-Xer, that would be weird indeed! Someone doesn’t like me or my beliefs … well as the quintessential cliche of my generation goes … whatever. I am from the “Whatever Generation”.
“You have to understand,” he said, “that I’m coming to these things as a member of the most pessimistic and ironic generation that has ever roamed the earth. When I hear millennials getting hurt by ‘cyber bullying’, or it being a gateway to suicide, it’s difficult for me to process.” – Bret Easton at 50: ‘I Would Rather Be An X-er than Generation Wuss’.
I bring this up on my Geezer Geek blog because most of the First-Wave of computer programmers are now in management. We are the old farts who sometimes don’t get the next generation. Some of us, just don’t get the hyper-sensitivity around criticism and identity. In a real sense, our culture didn’t give a damn about Gen-X since we grew up in the shadow of the Boomers and entered adulthood in one one of the worst recessions until 2011. If anyone in my generation was hyper-sensitive and identity focused, no one would give a damn. It was their personal problem. We’d call these kinds of people the “high needs girlfriend” or “high needs boyfriend” or in the words of Easton … “a wuss”.
My readers know I like to “toot the horn” of older Geeks. So from a productivity point of view, Gen-X Geezer Geeks are generally what you’d call “low needs employees”. I think this is generally true for Baby Boomer Geezer Geeks as well, since as we age, many of us “get over ourselves”. Life becomes less about working out our insecurities and more about feeling satisfied with delivering good value to organizations and clients. And for those of us Gen-Xers who still have the “whatever”-cynic attitude, its something organizations can deal with easily by laying out expected metrics. Either you perform to these levels or you will be “whatever”. Performance bonuses work really well with Gen-Xers too!
How shall companies deals with the more difficult problem of the the hyper-sensitive younger generation? What is the cost to teamwork and company culture if some of our younger workers are, what my generation would call, “high-needs employees?” First, I think we need to be careful not to exaggerate the issue – Gen-X was not near as cynical as people thought, nor was the Baby Boomers as me-centered as people thought, nor are younger generations as wussy as Easton thinks. Yes, Gen-Xers tend to be cynical, Boomers me-centered, and younger types … well … wussy.
This is where mentoring comes in. We can’t change how generations have developed, except perhaps for our own kids, but we can bring our experience to bear on our teams. Instead of lamenting the young wusses on your team, Gen-X managers can use the lovely sardonic wit of our generation to help younger geeks to become a bit more jaded. Not as much as we are, of course.
On that note, let me end with a video from Billy Idol … who first sang this with his band, “Generation-X”.