Chicago — They’re antsy and edgy, tired of waiting for promotion opportunities at work as their elders put off retirement. A good number of them are just waiting for the economy to pick up so they can hop to the next job, find something more fulfilling and get what they think they deserve. Oh, and they want work-life balance, too.
Sounds like Gen Y, the so-called “entitlement generation,” right?
Not necessarily, say people who track the generations. In these hard times, they’re also hearing strong rumblings of discontent from Generation X. They’re the 32- to 44-year-olds who are wedged between baby boomers and their children, often feeling like forgotten middle siblings — and increasingly restless at work as a result.
“All of a sudden, we’ve gone from being the young upstarts to being the curmudgeons,” says Bruce Tulgan, a generational consultant who’s written books about various age groups, including his fellow Gen Xers.
This isn’t the first time Gen Xers have faced tough times. They came of age during a recession and survived the dot-com bust of 2000. In recent years, though, more members of the generation — stereotyped early on as jaded individualists — had families or began settling down in other ways. It was time, they thought, to enjoy the rewards of paying some dues.
“We were starting to buy into the system, at least to some extent,” Tulgan says, “and then we got the rug pulled out from under us.”
There’s some evidence that Gen Xers really are being taken for granted at work.
One survey done this year for Deloitte Consulting LLP, for instance, found that nearly two-thirds of executives at large companies were most concerned about losing Gen Y employees, who are often cheaper to hire and heralded for their coveted high-tech knowledge, even though many Gen Xers consider themselves just as technologically savvy. Less than half of employers had similar concerns about losing Gen Xers.
A companion survey of employees found that only about 37 percent of Gen Xers said they planned to stay in their current jobs after the recession ends, compared with 44 percent of Gen Yers, 50 percent of baby boomers and 52 percent of senior citizen workers who said the same.