Millennials and Gen X: more alike than different

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

Everyone loves to rag on Millennials (born between 1977 and 1990), and we’ve all heard the complaints. Millennials are lazy. Millennials are spoiled and entitled. Millennials have no ambition. And so on.

As a member of Gen X, I’ve often thought that my generation derives particular pleasure from bashing Millennials. Not that we don’t have our reasons. The reports have some of us paranoid—those reports claiming that Gen Y is going to leap frog right over us and assume leadership in the workplace alongside the Boomers, even as we’ve been quietly toiling away for years, patiently awaiting our turn to be in charge.

And there are so many of them! (One 2012 study estimates there are 76 million Gen Y’ers versus 56 million Gen X’ers in the U.S.) It’s not surprising that some of us Gen X’ers feel all but forgotten and a little miffed at Millennials as a result.

And yet, Gen X and Gen Y have a lot in common.

An Australian study, the Life Patterns Project, found that Gen X and Gen Y have similar life goals and similar attitudes about work, such as:

  • Valuing work/life balance
  • Understanding the high likelihood of having more than one career in life
  • Understanding the importance of flexibility, adaptability, and a positive stance toward lifelong learning to survive an unstable job market

Related: Generations at Work

And according to a study by the American Psychological Association (APA), Millennials and Gen X report having identical levels of stress, stemming from concerns about work, money, and job stability. Older generations are more likely to be stressed by family and personal health issues.

Gen X and Gen Y also are united in their annoyance toward the Boomers. Gen X wants them to retire already; Gen Y blames Boomers for the Great recession and this too-slow-to-recover economy, among other things.

When it comes to work style, Gen X (the “latchkey” Generation) has been called “independent” and “hands off.” In contrast, Millennials are more team and group oriented.

Despite these differences, however, Gen X and Gen Y will come to rely on each other more and more as the years progress and the Boomers finally retire. Gen Y will look to Gen X for mentoring, and Gen X could still learn a thing or two about technology from the younger generation. And as each group ages, both will be seeking greater meaning and more work/life balance from their careers, goals that we’ll help each other attain.

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