I have noticed, and other people from "my generation" have noticed, that "Generation Y" is in many cases climbing ladders much faster than those of us who have put in years of hard slog. I am part of "Generation X" and it is strange to see how the "Baby Boomers" are actually giving those who have not even turned 30, positions of very strong influence - in fact in some cases "Chief" titles in fairly large companies - even though us "Gen X'ers" have the same skillsets.

I sit on the fence - age should make no difference in the scheme of things - and I have no doubt that many of them are intelligent, quick, politically savvy, etc. Yes, it partly does come down to "who you know, not what you know". But I wonder about their wisdom, people skills, and lack of well-rounded experience.

Am I jealous? Yes and no. I do try to just focus on my deliverables and not concern myself with this stuff. Regardless, I do wonder if I am the only one seeing this trend.


- kevdude

juliahhavener's picture
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I'll have to check my bookshelf for the title, but I read a book within the last year that discusses the generation gaps and why gaming has changed the face of corporate culture. I don't think it explains everything, but it does give an excellent viewpoint as to why they may well already have the experience most of us wouldn't consider.

kevdude's picture

Hi Julia - yes I do recall briefly reading this somewhere - I guess there is a connection between blowing away enemy tanks in a Playstation game and corporate ladder climbing! I think Instant Messaging and drinking copious volumes of Coke was a part of it too.

I know I am coming across slightly cynical here - but I really am baffled why some Baby Boomers prefer Gen Y, than to us Gen X'ers, even though the same (perhaps better?) results can be achieved in the same amount of time.

I guess I also wonder how *earning* the promotion comes into the equation.

jhack's picture

Reminds me of George Carlin's joke: everyone who drives faster than me is a maniac, and everyone who drives slower is an idiot.

Those boomers just hold onto their positions. Those Gen Y's are taking the promotions too early. Those Gen X'ers....

Whatever. The real issue is, what role do you want, and how do you get that role? Have you listened to podcast #1: "Solution to a stalled technical career"? It's not just what you know, but it's also who you know. That is a reality.

I don't see this trend. Very few companies prefer to promote younger people because of their age. They must be performing in some way. I doubt you "have the same skillsets."

I was in my thirties when I first had a boss younger than me. This happens as you get older. If you're still working at 62 and you're not the CEO, almost everyone around and above you will be whippersnappers. It's just demographics.


sadicarnot's picture

I am a month shy of 42 so technically not a boomer and not Gen X either. I work in a power plant and what I see is that most of the boomers grew up with the idea of pensions and staying with a company for many years.

Having a 401K does not burden you with the golden handcuffs of a pension so younger workers are willing to change jobs and employers and many times a promotion comes with those changes.

Most of the older workers I deal with are just coasting to retirement, younger workers get the promotions because they are more competitive and will do more than sit around reading the paper.

bflynn's picture

One thought here - the "long slog" may have you tired out? Could it be that the youngsters are showing more energy and more excitement that you? I don't see a generational thing going on.


kevdude's picture

Thanks everyone for your thoughts! Cheers

danstratton's picture

Kevin, my (somewhat tongue in cheek) thought is that Gen Xers remind the Boomers of their %#$% kids and the Gen Yers remind them of their cute grandkids. :-) As an official Gen Xer (born on the very day they say is the beginning of Gen X - who makes this stuff up, anyway?), I have seen it where a Gen Y seems to climb a little more rapidly than the experienced Gen X. Not really sure what it is.

CalKen's picture

From what I have seen in my company (which is a high-tech company with a high level of "baby boomer brain drain") I have seen where the baby boomers are pushing the Gen Y-ers through the ranks to prepare for the loss of talent by getting Gen Y-ers trained for the future. In speeches I have heard, the management here is thinking that the Gen-Xers are too close to the top of the food chain and as such to prepare for the future they are giving Gen-Yers things like rotation programs and big salary perks that I would have loved to have when I was their age.

As far as the differences go, Gen-Xers are more worried about quality of life whereas the baby boomers are the ones who value security more. Gen-Yers are sort of in the same loop as Gen-Xers (they are looking at the real possibility of not having as rosy a retirement income as the baby-boomers or the Gen-Xers) so I suppose that it is possible that the baby boomers can relate to the Gen-Yers more. There are many publications on the clashes between the baby-boomers and the Gen-Xers due to cultural differences and perhaps this is part of the backlash. I saw this firsthand at my previous company.

Hope this helps.

kevdude's picture

Whew - from some of the initial responses I was beginning to think "maybe it really is just me!"

One thing I have noticed too, is that Baby Boomers are putting their hopes in Gen Y because they can push Gen Y a bit more - Gen Y is perhaps willing to work extra hours (including weekends) for long stretches. That's not to say Gen X won't do that either, but Gen X is perhaps more concerned about the work/life balance and the Baby Boomers know this.

In other words, Gen Y may tend to give the Baby Boomers more results for a longer period of time. While Gen X is planning their own retirement themselves, Gen Y are just barely having their own offspring.

Also to some degree, one reason I think the Baby Boomers are investing so much in Gen Y is so that there may be more of a guarantee that the Baby Boomer retirement share packages will have a little extra stretch.

But folks - these thoughts are generalizations from a few instances I've seen and from my colleagues experiences. Of course it is not this way everywhere!

CalKen's picture

Oops, I meant that Gen Yers are similar to baby boomers.

There was a study (I forget where, if people can help me with the reference it would be helpful) where the generational traits go in cycles. For instance, Gen Xers are more conservative than their 1960's-era parents because they saw their parents going through their "free love" stage and the 1960's kids are more "liberal" (for lack of a better word) than their 1950's parents who went through WW-II which was a more conservative-mindset era. The same can be said about the 1940's kids who lived through the depression and their parents of the "gay 20's" excesses.

Just a little something to chew on.

RichRuh's picture
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Not sure if this is what you are referring to:

Howe, Neil and William Strauss, [i]The Next 20 Years : How Customer and Workforce Attitudes Will Evolve[/i], [u]Harvard Business Review[/u], July-August 2007.

My 2 cents (paraphrased from Mike & Mark): If you see a problem, look for a solution in gradually increasing concentric circles, centered on your own desk. It's [i]possible[/i] that you're being discriminated against for being in Generation X, but far more likely that it's something you are doing (or not doing).

Successful manager and proud member of Generation X,


p.s. Go Red Sox!

bflynn's picture

Nice one Rich. Its exactly what I've been trying to put my finger on, but couldn't think to say.


juliahhavener's picture
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I agree completely, Rich, and I believe I missed that aspect of the original post.

I just thought it was an interesting idea of how Gen X/Gen Y may have come to have some of the viewpoints we have. I found it particularly interesting because I'm a confirmed gamer - I've always known I learned things playing, especially my preferred brand of MMO. I didn't recognize many of the specific skills or their business applications, though I absolutely used them.

I think this was a different title, but the authors seem familiar.

kevdude's picture

Rich - you are absolutely correct, quite obvious actually. It all comes down to the individual... how we choose our response to any given situation.

I appreciate all the viewpoints, thanks everyone.

kklogic's picture

I love that HBR article - great stuff. I think what you're seeing, Kev, is that others have seen that article or similar materials as well -- and they are doing things in a frantic matter to "attract and keep Gen Y'ers." I've even heard this in my own company.

I think us Gen-X'ers have gotten a very bad rap - and on top of it, corporations didn't make all of these accomodations for OUR style. If we're being honest, I think Gen X'ers feel short-changed. We were not known for work-life balance. We are generally workaholics.

Now comes along this generation who doesn't want to pay dues like we have. They are getting changes in comp and work environment before they've proven anything at all.

While I agree that it's about individual contributions and such -- no one can deny that this upcoming generation is different AND that companies are finding ways to change the environment for them.

I think it would be irresponsible for companies not to ALSO address how this affects those that fall into Gen X. It's going to cause resentment - at the VERY least.

Mark's picture
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One more time, the lone voice in the wilderness:

I think the Generational stuff is complete crap. Unless you're willing to brand African Americans as all being similar, or Asians, or women, or short people, you ought not lump folks together based on when they were born.

The last concept I heard about that lumped people together based on when they were born was ASTROLOGY.



kklogic's picture


I think we can all agree that people are individuals and should be treated as such. That said, and with all due respect, I think that it's reasonable to see that there are patterns of behavior within certain demographics.

I'm a direct marketer and this is a large part of what we do. We identify patterns and market based upon these.

We have hired a number of Gen Y folks. Some of them fit these generalizations (or stereotypes, if you will). Some do not. That said, there have been some that definitely exhibit the behaviors defined in the HBR article - which is different than what we've seen with other generations.

I believe that this generation has grown up differently and therefore will act differently. They've used computers since they were 2 and social networking since they were in Kindergarten.

Gen X'ers came into the workplace with much more computer knowledge and an attitude of efficiency. This did have an effect on the workplace as it's eliminated a lot of support positions.

So, again - I do believe that you cannot say every single person will fit the pattern -- I don't believe you can deny that a pattern exists.

adragnes's picture


Direct marketing and management are quite different. As a direct marketer you do not know much about the people you are marketing to and have to base your actions on behaviour that is common in those demographics.

As a manager you are so close to your directs that knowing of these patterns will not help you be more effective in managing them.

If you were a HR Director in a large corporation or something similar they might be of use again though.


kklogic's picture

I would then argue that we need to stop using DiSC, Myers-Briggs, Strengthsfinders, etc. as management tools -- because these tools do the same thing. They identify patterns in people.

We still, as managers, need to take into account the individuals we are dealing with. The data these tests provide just give us vague indications of the person we are dealing with.

adragnes's picture


You are right in that we need to take into account the individuals we are dealing with. I have not studied or even tried DISC or any of the other tests myself, but I do not think that they extrapolate a full profile from a single data point such as your date of birth.

I am not saying that the "generation" stuff is completely without value. Statistics can give you useful information about a group as a whole, but one should be careful not to assume that what holds true for the group as a whole, is true for any one member in particular.

When you work with somebody, you know more about them than any stereotypes based on their demographic group can ever tell you.


Mark's picture
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Well, it's a good discussion to have, and we sure disagree. That's cool.

The fact that there are certain patterns of behavior among certain demographics is certainly of value to direct marketers.

It has very little if anything to do with management. Management requires individual relationships. Individuals, in my experience, do not respond well to others treating them as part of a larger group as opposed to their own individuality.

As David Ogilvy said, Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.

DiSC does NOT lump people together. It gives you a way of dealing differently with every individual based on THEIR OWN behaviors, not some system which admits to lumping people together based on socioeconomic trends.

When you are talking to an individual, all the group associations that they have become irrelevant compared to their own demeanor (and demeanor expresses desires for treatment from others). Even IF their group (and which group would you speak to? generational? Ethnic? Gender? Birth Order? ) is a full standard deviation different from some other group - and no grouping theory that I have seen suggest THAT big a difference - that still means that a sizable portion of that group is quite like another group, and therefore notably different than the mean for their own group.

Why would you bother treating ME as a baby boomer (I was born in 1960) when surely my academy degree, military experience, daughter with cancer, political speechwriter, marriage, divorce, three children, Procter & Gamble experience, firing experience, consulting history, and charity fund raising background can tell you far more? To add to this generational issue, I am in the Baby Boom generation, but my father did NOT serve in the military (too young for WW2, in school during Korea) and military service of the parents is often considered a driving force behind the boomer's upbringing. I thought the folks that were part of the 60's counter-cultural movement were not terribly patriotic...but they were from MY generation - the baby boomers. My brothers and I are ALL Baby Boomers. And 4 more different people you could not find.

I listen to baby boomer stories all the time in the media...they say we're all getting ready to retire. If my retirement guy treats me like that, he's an idiot. If he even STARTS his conversations with me like that, he's an idiot. I hope he doesn't read one of those books.

Are there tendencies? Sure. Just like there are tendencies among IT people. Hey, IT folks - you okay if your boss does something and justifies it by saying, "hey, you're all IT, it should have worked for all of you"?

This argument mixes up a macro trend - which I do not argue with and find interesting intellectually - and managerial behavior, which at its core is not a macro exercise.

I would also argue that trying to keep another person's various affiliations in one's head in order to interact with them is a bit like building a new house every night to sleep in. Why not learn to pay close attention to them, and base your communication on understanding them. I've never met someone whose behavior was not a better indicator than their affiliations.

The FACT that there are patterns of behavior is true...and again, irrelevant to my interaction with any ONE person.

And the ultimate note:

I bet in 5 minutes of talking with someone from ANY generation, knowing nothing, I will be a better manager to them than someone armed with reams of data about when they were born. Because I do what our society has been begging us to do for years: treat others as individuals, honoring their individuality.

kklogic's picture


I truly appreciate you typing that out and having an open conversation about the topic. I've always seen different opinions as an opportunity to learn, so I thank you.

I don't think we truly disagree so much. Certainly, it is ALWAYS better and advisable to go on individual things you know about a person. If I know that Suzi's dog Fifi is sick and she's worried about that, I will be a better manager than if I just took into account that Suzi is a Gen X'er or a member of ABC Association.

I don't think that DISC or any of the other tools "lump" people - but that it, like some of this other data, merely gives us a window into a person's communication style and so on. But it also needs to be coupled with the individual's "real life" information you spoke of. IIRC, you and I test out the same on DISC (don't quote me on that, my that's my recollection) - but this thread is a case in point that we are different.

Sometimes we don't have data - like in the case of future hires. All we have is how the demographic has behaved as a whole. I don't think all Gen X'ers are slackers. I don't think all Gen Y'ers are out to get recognition without paying dues. Each of the people that fit into these categories are complete and utter individuals -- some don't fit the profile at all (as in the case of you and being a Boomer). That said, I don't think it's a bad thing that the articles coming out about this upcoming generation that suggest they behave differently make us at least bring up the conversation of changing our culture. The outcome might be a resounding "no" -- but I believe it's a worthwhile conversation.

BTW, it's great having you active on the boards again. Welcome back!

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Okay, but here's my secret weapon:

I DO have data within 30 seconds. I have facial expressions, and body language, and vocabulary, and speech speed, and enunciation.

People are walking databases, throwing out stuff like neon billboards. We all BEG others to see our clues.

Start seeing those clues, and you will be OVERWHELMED with data. And it will be about THAT PERSON.

Good to be back indeed.


kklogic's picture


If you could teach ALL men this sage advice, we women would be forever indebted! :D

Mark's picture
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:D :D

Yes, all of this behavioral stuff works in friendship and relationships, too.

:D :D

ramiska's picture

[quote]Yes, all of this behavioral stuff works in friendship and relationships, too.[/quote]

Funny, after listening to the first few casts (especially becoming part of a group,etc), I was looking forward to my wife's next family party so I could try some of this stuff out.

I think it's working on the home-front better than the work-front so far. :wink:

sklosky's picture

This discussion reminded me of this NPR story I heard.


misstenacity's picture

Bumping this thread to post an article I saw on a career blog, about how to manage Gen Y:


Several of the points are interesting and could indeed be tied to the rapidity of media changeover when Gen Y was just a bit younger. Such as, they desire flexibility in work hours far more than financial rewards, they will work hard but demand nearly instant feedback and results from their coworkers, they have very short timeframes for future projects, they feel little loyalty to their employers, etc.

I've not yet worked with many Gen Y'ers so I don't know how much generalization is truly applicable, but I see it now and then.


JorrianGelink's picture

Being Generation Y I find this thread interesting, haven't even heard of the concept until I read all of this.

I've also been sitting here for 5 minutes thinking of what to write and I seriously have nothing.

The article misstenacity posted is true with a lot of the young ones I have to manage; however, I move them out of that mentality. That article from the way I read it pretty much says "babysit them all the time every minute" and I don't play that game with my staff.

They work as a team but I really push self-development onto them and part of self-development to me is having that bit of individuality that says "I don't need someone hand-holding me all the time"

Part of the reason I am a manager today is I was not hand held through it and moved through a furious pace because of that "self-development, self-praise" mentality.