Make us your home page

Gen X programmed to lead, but reluctant to do so

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Those born between 1960 and 1981 may become known as the "lost generation" in the workplace.

Labeled Gen X, this age group was expected to claim positions of authority and run the business world when the baby boom generation headed for the exits.

Didn't happen.

At least not yet.

The X-ers, caught between the boomers and the equally big baby boom echo, Generation Y, "continue to be overshadowed in the workplace," said Warren Cinnick, a succession planning expert.

Cinnick, director of the PricewaterhouseCoopers People and Change Advisory Services practice, has analyzed extensive data about generational status on the job.

"In the past decade, boomers slowed down their retirements," Cinnick said in a recent phone interview from his Chicago office. "Business owners pulled back on defined benefit plans, retirement income became less predictable, and boomers hung on."

Whether motivated by love of work or financial need, boomer bosses didn't vacate the job in predicted numbers.

You can always cite exceptions, but in the main, Cinnick said, Gen X has dealt with two powerful demographic and social forces that make it a sandwich generation in the work force.

Many Gen Xers grew up with divorced parents or were latchkey kids from either one- or two-parent families. Many saw their parents ousted from longtime employment in downsizings.

Those realities caused a "two strikes against authority" mentality, Cinnick said. "Gen X won't step up quickly to be leaders. They don't see the payoff."

Instead, he said, Gen Xers are more likely to gravitate to jobs where they become subject-matter experts rather than aiming for the top of office hierarchies.

And even those who aspire to top management tend to reach for power only on their own time frames — after they've dealt with family priorities.

That wreaks havoc with some succession planning, Cinnick said. Among the Xers, outstanding candidates for promotion often decline opportunities, not once but sometimes twice or more.

"The trick for employers is to be patient with the good ones," Cinnick said, adding that many are worth waiting for; they tend to be good team players but don't assert themselves as loudly as Gen Y.

Ironically, Gen X may be programmed to lead. They're well educated, technologically savvy and collaborative.

And, Cinnick said, they're the "built for color TV" generation. They grew up with "pretty images of successful workers on TV" and easily look the part.

Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at the Kansas City Star.

Gen X programmed to lead, but reluctant to do so 01/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 1:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]