The rising rift between Gen X and Gen Y

This post was originally published at Brazen Careerist as part of Penelope Trunk’s Twentysomething series. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to post on the Oprah of career advice sites!

As the workplace weather changes, Generation X isn’t happy to see Generation Y as the rainbow in their persistent rainstorm.

Both generations have similarities, sure. Technological savvy and the willingness to rebel against boomer norms brought us together for a short time. But as more of Gen Y enters the workplace, Gen X is becoming increasingly marginalized, and the fundamental differences of how we operate are now dividing us along fierce lines:

1. Different job markets
Generation Y is a demographic powerhouse entering into our choice of jobs. With the world conspiring in our favor, we’ve already pushed the limits of the foundation Generation X laid.

Generation X tried to change the status quo while entering into one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. They scorned the good ole boys, but had to play by their rules anyway, while millenials are able to create our own rules.

The fact that Gen Xers worked hard with little success beyond casual Fridays means that they are “only mentioned to be polite” in generational discussions. This is aggravated by Generation Y’s readiness to assume all the leadership positions when the Boomer generation retires. Gen X can’t seem to win and Gen Y reaps the rewards.

2. Cynicism vs. Idealism
Since the Gen Xers weren’t able to create the workplace change they desired, it’s no wonder that I get the feeling that Generation X is inherently skeptical of who I am. They’re weary of how easy success comes to me, of my desire to bring them into the mix, and of my idealism.

Unlike our older co-workers, Generation Y doesn’t operate out of fear or distrust, but the possibility of what can be done. I realize that Generation Y is new to the workplace. To Gen X, I just don’t get how the world works. And while it’s quite possible that we won’t change the world like we anticipate, why shoot for just the possible? Idealism is what changes the world.

3. You vs. Us
The Gen X focus on distrust makes them solitary workers, preferring to rely solely on their selves to see a project through, while Generation Y tends to want to support and work together. A Gen Xer is often found at the office, squeezing by on their flextime, and blocking out the world with their iPod.

Generation X is no doubt feeling like a stepping stone generation, and many are, in fact, choosing to align themselves with Generation Y rather than fade into the background. The founder of MySpace went so far as to lie about his age.

I say the more the merrier. There is strength and value to realism, and there is strength and value to optimism. That’s why we have to work together. What can I say? I’m a team player.