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Ian Ferguson: ‘Shout Outs’ To The Employee ‘X’ Factor

We are products of our environment. Much of the culture that generations live out is as a direct result of what they have seen.

I have written on numerous occasions about the great diversity existing in the workplace, particularly as it relates to age. The studies and literature on generations in the workplace all seem to focus attention on ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’, while glossing quite briefly over the generation we call ‘X’. Perhaps this is because Baby Boomers and their children, millennials, form the largest percentages of the workforce globally. Perhaps, too, we talk so much about the boomers and millennials since they seem to constantly be at war in the workplace.

As a member of the ‘X’ generation in the workforce, I feel it my duty to share the uniqueness of my comrades, and what a blessing it is to have the ‘middle generation’ in good numbers in your workplace.

For the sake of clarity, let us establish Generation X-ers as those born between 1965 and 1979. Today, that makes us between 37 and 51 years-old. There are some stark behavioural differences and similarities between this group and other generations.

But before we get into any of those, perhaps in the Bahamian context, the first thing to note is that this generation is the first to be born primarily on the island of New Providence. In many cases, their parents (early Boomers or Veterans) were born on the Family Islands and migrated with their strong sense of Out Island culture and values. I believe it is safe to say that despite the fact our mothers were among the first generation of women to work outside the home, we learned courtesy, kindness, care, responsibility and many other character-building traits in the homestead.

Generation X-ers were the first to grow up with advanced and evolving technology. This made us quite adaptable to the use of computers, smart phones and everything else our technological age throws at us. This also makes us, as a generation, quite flexible, and Xers are able to make adjustments to most situations (including the divorce of many of our parents) with relative ease.

This generation, known in the Bahamas as the first crop of ‘latch key kids’, have grown up with a strong sense of independence. We are quite individualistic in our own right, as our parents convinced us that we could make our own way in the world and be whatever we wanted to be. This rhetoric came from a push against the many limitations still existing in the world, which prevented blacks, women and other minority groupings from professions and wealth.

What is probably viewed as Generation X’s landmark characteristic is our ability to seek, and live out, a responsible ‘work-life balance’. We saw our parents and grandparents kill themselves for jobs that showed little appreciation for their efforts, and determined - even as children - this was not to be our lot. We have learned good work ethics and will report everyday on time, but we will not be early and will certainly not spend all our daylight hours confined to our workspace. Our children, families and friends are important to us, and we will retreat to this ‘safe space’ when work and life becomes overwhelming.

This generalisation of Xers has generated some criticism from both Boomers and Millennials. Boomers outright call us lazy at work, and not committed to the task. Millennials resent our seeming lack of fire and intensity at work, which results in what they claim is the refusal of the boomers to demit office. Many Millennials feel that our lack of aggression at work in the name of taking care of home has motivated the ever-committed boomer and, in the political and religious circles, veteran generations to remain in place.

True or not, our domestication has been complete, and each generation will do and live out as they see fit and necessary for their survival. In the language of our generation…Shout outs and Big ups to my fellow Xers doing it big in Corporate Bahamas.

• NB: Ian R. Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

Comments

dlowe 5 years ago

Excellent insights and analysis.

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