And that's exactly the proposition I want to put in front of you today. Like a lot of articles about generations in the workplace, this one calls X out as being particularly motivated--to a degree not seen in Boomers or Millennials--by a quest for "work/life balance." One GenX leader quoted in the article says this about the potential of pursuing an executive role at an association:
"[A leadership role] is something that I am comfortable with. But at the same time, I hesitate from time to time to take on too much because I do want that balance in my life. ... It's not because I don't want to do it [or] I'm lazy. I just want to keep that balance and make sure I don't lose my personal life over my work life."
When I read that it hit me. There's a reason why work/life balance is a particular concern of Xers and not Boomers or Millennials.
Boomers long ago figured out how to make their work their life. To an Xer, this means they sold out--adopting a work ethic that subjugates the personal to the professional. Boomers are experts at using personal connections for professional gain, something I think older Xers secretly wish they were better at. To use a metaphoric cliche, Boomers took up golf not to challenge themselves as an Xer would, but because the were savvy enough to realize that business deals get done on the golf course.
Millennials, conversely, are busy figuring out how to make their life their work. To an Xer, this is even worse--shamelessly putting the self ahead of any other concern. But I sense an undercurrent of jealousy in a lot of Xer talk about Millennials. I think some Xers fear that Millennials may actually succeed in changing the game they've been struggling to play by their own set of rules. To extend the same metaphoric cliche, while the Xers are taking the Danny Noonan approach--hoping to win the caddy tournament in order to become a member of the club--Millennials are playing their own game and creating their own spaces in which to play it. It's not so much that they don't like golf. It's more that they just aren't going to do what they don't like, no matter how many business deals Boomers and Xers are cutting on the 18th green.
And this puts Xers in the middle again, the only generation who seems overly concerned with this thing called work/life balance. They want a separation between what they do for work and what they do for fun--a professional life and a personal life, both fulfilling but neither intruding on the other. But the other two generations in the Hourglass have already figured something out that X is just beginning to learn. When it comes to having a personal life and a professional life, it's tougher to manage them when you keep them separate than when you decide to push them together.