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NextGen Magazine


Generation X Starts to Take Over the Workplace

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jul 7, 2023

iStock-165645906 Cross-generational learning, knowledge, keys

American corporate boardrooms may still be dominated by baby boomers, but the succeeding generation—the millennial generation, or Gen X—is starting to take over, The New York Times reported.

This cohort, born roughly between 1965 and 1980, has been known for a different approach to working than that of its predecessor. Such an approach took hold at Tulsa, Okla.-based manufacturer  Darby Equipment. Ryan and Bobby Darby took over the family business when their father, CEO Bob Darby, retired at their urging during the pandemic. While the patriarch could not imagine any other way of working other than being at one’s desk by 8 a.m. and staying there all day, the new generation of leadership allowed for flexible working.

“What is the purpose of having a successful business if you don’t take time to enjoy your life?” said Ryan Darby, who tries to attend all of his son’s football and baseball games.

Workers over 55 (mostly boomers) prefer to work remotely around 35 percent of the time, while those in their early 20s (Gen Z) preferred to be remote about 45 percent of the time and workers in their 30s and 40s preferred to work from home closer to half the time, research from Stanford found.

“Gen X are the latchkey kids—we grew up very independent,” Robert Glazer, the founder of the marketing company Acceleration Partners, told the Times. “Gen X was one of the first generations to expect a little more from work, trying to set boundaries but not expecting the workplace to change around them.”

David Burkus, a consultant and the author of Under New Management, advises dozens of companies on management issues, including return-to-office plans, and he has seen the generational divisions. “Baby boomers, who were predominantly empty nesters, were pushing to get people back in the office,” he said. “Then you had Gen Xers and geriatric millennials pushing for flexibility.”

Joy Meier, who runs human resources for the 4,000 employees at E2open, a supply chain software company, surveyed the employees about their return-to-office preferences. She found that many young workers wanted to be in person, sometimes even five days a week, as did older workers, while Gen Xers preferred the company’s hybrid policy, which requires most staffers to come in three days a week.

But one’s generation is not an indicator of workplace performance.

“The single best predictor for whether folks will succeed at work is the competence of their boss, regardless of generation,” Melissa Nightingale, a co-founder of Raw Signal Group, a management training firm, told the Times.

“A lot of experts make it sound like you’re putting people in boxes based on their birth year, but what we want people to understand is that generations are clues, not a box,” said Jason Dorsey, a workplace researcher. “Just because you’re born in a certain year doesn’t mean someone knows everything about you.”