Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Should Xers Just Quit?

Intrigued by the theme of my own post last week, I did a little more digging on the Harvard Publishing blog and came across this post from Tammy Erickson. It's from March 2008 and it's titled "10 Reasons Gen Xers Are Unhappy at Work." It reads like a manifesto for why Xers should stop banging their heads against the Boomer-built wall of corporate America—a wall, it seems, with only a Millennial-sized door in it—and pursue their own entrepreneurial vision.

Erickson hopes this isn't the case. She states that corporations really need GenX to to serve as our primary corporate leaders over the next couple years. (Interesting phrasing there—evidently just a couple of years until those Millennials get enough of their own leadership cred.) And after her top ten reasons why Xers feel out-of-place and unwelcome in a traditional corporate culture, she concludes:

Is it time to jump off the corporate train? I hope not—at least not for most of you. Corporations really need your leadership. But I understand that we need to create corporate environments that are more conducive to your needs and preferences.

Regular Hourglass readers will see several common themes in Erickson's top ten list. But what I want to focus on is her use of the word "we" in her concluding thought. "We" need to create corporate environments that are more conducive to your needs and preferences.

Who is "we"?

Is it Boomers? Is it the established leaders of today and yesterday who will be creating these new enviorments conducive to the leadership style of their GenX successors? Will they even see the need to champion such a re-engineering of their institutions? With the Millennials coming up so fast and so large behind GenX—and being so much more like the Boomers—isn't it more likely that many will convince themselves not to fix what ain't broken?

Or is it Xers? Is it the emerging leaders of today and tomorrow who will be creating these new enviroments for themselves? Can such a thing be done within the framework laid down by their Boomer predecessors without the support of those Boomers and the support of the Millennials who will be comprising more and more of the workforce?

We all know that there is a tremendous amount of variability at the level of the individual in these discussions. As a result, a variety of corporate environments will undoubtedly evolve over the next decade. But if there are real generational forces at work here, to me they seem much more likely to result in Xers and not Millennials as the next unstoppable entrepreneurial class.


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