AS COMPANY LEADERSHIP PASSES
TO GENERATION X
WOMEN IN MANAGEMENT
There’s a sea change coming as Generation X assumes the management of companies and organizations.
According to data compiled by Personnel Decisions
International (PDI), companies will face a major shift in
management styles as 22.5 million baby boomers
(currently 74% of the management ranks and 99% of the
company executives) retire over the next ten years. Who will take their places? Current Generation X line
employees and managers. How will management styles
and corporate cultures be impacted? Based on
characteristics of Generation X members, the change will
be from hierarchal and directive to collaboration based on
With this significant change in the wind, it is wise
to understand the way different age groups think and act and
Describe DifferencesBetween Generation X
And the Other Generations
Take a step back and look at all the generations currently
represented in the U.S. workforce - because you could
meet any or all of them at the office. (Please remember,
lest anyone take offense, that these descriptions are very broad generalizations and are influenced by someone
being in an earlier and later phase of a generation, being
on the cusp between two generations, or being an
exception to the overall generalization.)
The descriptions used here are composites from a variety
of sources, including the University of Tampere in Finland
(which has no dog in the hunt) and is renowned for its
scientific research. No two sources I consulted defined
the generations in precisely the same way.
The Silent Generation: between the ages of 65 -
82. They are traditionally hard working, cost-conscious
and trust the government. They are generally optimistic
about their futures and hold strong sets of morals. They are all drawing Social Security, but many of the younger
Silents have opted to delay retirement as their pensions have taken pretty big hits and it would be hard to maintain
their lifestyles. Others have left the workforce, only to
return to lower level and/or temporary jobs.
The Baby Boomers: between the ages of 42 –
64. They have strong sets of ideals and traditions, and
are working hard to make better lives for their families.
They tend to be anxious about the future, are physically
active, tend to be socially liberal and politically
conservative. They’ve survived difficult downsizings and
layoffs during their careers. Boomers see career
development as doing what is necessary to progress to
positions of greater influence, power and prestige.
Generation X: between the ages of 25 – 41.
They are characterized as individualistic, living in the
present, liking to experiment and impatient for results.
They grew up immersed in information just as the
Information Age hit its stride. They will question authority
and feel ready to take on the world left to them by previous
generations. They are self-reliant, many of them having
grown up as latch-key kids. They are marrying later in life,
wanting to be able to devote more time to their families
than their parents were able to do.
Generation Y: between the ages of 13 and 24.
They are generally characterized as being materialistic,
impatient, selfish and disrespectful of traditions. They are
trying to grow up very quickly, but have few good role
models outside their families and close friends. They are
very aware of the world around them and are incredibly
technologically savvy! Older Gen Y’ers have graduated
from college and are just getting their feet wet in the
workplace while others are in grad school. Some younger
ones are still in high school and working part time.
Generation X At
Gen X’ers bring a broad range of experiences to the
workplace. In their own words, they believe in themselves
and their abilities and like others to believe in them too.
They like to receive assignments and be given the
freedom to “run with them” pretty independently.
Non-micromanagement conveys to them confidence in
their abilities and potential. They see themselves as
financially savvy, creative and group oriented.
They saw the instability in their parents’ careers and, as a
result, don’t want to get too attached to a particular
company or organization, preferring to keep their options
open. Unlike their parents, they are not as willing to make
sacrifices for their jobs. X’ers see career development as
increasing the value of their skill portfolio, so they’ll have
the clout that allows them to keep moving to better jobs
and projects while maintaining family, fun and balance in
How Do Employees
and Gen X’ers as Managers
In a survey, again conducted by PDI, of 24,000 mid-level
managers in Minneapolis, both groups are able to meet
performance outcomes, although they arrive there very
- Boomers were 18% more likely to be rated as
“knowing the business” and 10% more likely to use
technical or functional expertise on the job. They also
rated better in their ability to coach and develop people
and manage project execution.
- Generation X managers received higher ratings in
self-improvement, work commitment, and analyzing
Implications for Women in Management
Traditionally, women’s management styles and personality traits mirror many of the values that Generation X’ers will be bringing to senior management positions. Women are by nature are more collaborative, partnership-oriented, consultative, adaptive and conciliatory than men. These feminine traits will become increasingly valued over the next decade.
Knowing this change is coming, you can start now – whichever Generation you belong to – to prepare for it. Knowledge is power so start paying attention to the generational make-up of the workforce in your company and planning for your role as it changes. Opportunities will abound if you know where to look!
A Great Resource
If you would like a terrific tool to help your team through this transition (especially if they are age diverse), I highly recommend “The Massey Triad” – a series of videos I saw when I was in management training at Xerox.
Morris Massey provides a masterful explanation of the differences between generation X and the other generations: “What You Are Is Where You Were When” –
explaining how the gut-level feelings that guide our adult lives
were all formed when we were very young. The other two
videos in the set are “What You Are is Not What You Have
to Be” and “What You Are is Where You See”.
Dr. Massey’s work puts generational differences into
context – the impact of wars, assassinations, politics, and
other live-changing events – showing why people at
different ages think, feel and act as they do.
Check with your Human Resources department to see if
your company owns copies. If not, try and talk them into
renting them for company-wide training and development.
They are worth every cent! At the link plug "massey" into the search box for more information.
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