Get Along like Gangbusters with Your Gen-X Boss

By Yvonne Milosevic

Do you sometimes struggle to understand what motivates your Gen-X boss’s behavior? While Millennials (aka Gen-Y) and Generation X are back-to-back generations, each group grew up so differently that some friction on the job is inevitable.

(Insert caveat: We realize that not every Millennial or Gen-Xer fits the mold for their representative generation. Indeed, there’s probably more variation within each group than between them. That said…)

Emotional intelligence is key when dealing with generational differences at work. If you have a Gen-X boss—that’s anyone born from 1965-1979—our intel will help you understand where they’re coming from. Follow this advice to keep your professional relationship top flight.

Squirrels: Sure, they’re sketchy. But also, admirably resourceful.

Show Gen-Xers you can be self-sufficient.

While you likely grew up with your parents at your side, many Gen-Xers had workaholic Boomer parents and grew up as latch-key kids. Generation X is independent, entrepreneurial, and pioneers of the work-life balance movement. If given a task, don’t expect a lot of hand-holding from your boss. She will appreciate your trying to handle the assignment on your own rather than coming back with lots of questions. Don’t shy away from taking on complicated tasks, either. Gen-Xers value your effort and can-do attitude as much as the final result.

Engage Gen-Xers as mentors.

Not to knock the Boomers, but Generation X has a much better grasp of your worldview. Boomers had no computers for most of their careers. They also tended to stay with the same organization for decades. Gen-Xers, meanwhile, evolved within a computer-friendly work environment and know a thing or two about job switching.

Almost two-thirds of Gen-Xers want to be mentors—more than any other generation—and they get the Millennial’s thirst for opportunities that provide personal and professional growth. Take advantage of their experience as you navigate your career path.

Communicate IRL once in a while.

This is a major gripe Gen-Xers have about Millennials. When Generation X wants to know something rightnow, they pick up a phone and get their answer. They can’t understand why younger employees will send an email or text and wait around for a reply to a time-sensitive query.

It’s a generational gap, pure and simple. Millennials are tech natives, and Generation X is the bridge between you and the typewriter/3-martini lunch set. Make an effort to check in face-to-face sometimes, or by phone. That said, it’s a smart strategy to help your Gen-X boss keep up with the latest technology. You might introduce new communication tools that can benefit the company.

Watch and learn from Gen-Xers’ emotional intelligence.

People skills are vital to the success of any organization. As a group that has paid its dues and gained experience through years of trial-and-error, Generation X has a lot to teach the newer kids on the block. Observe how your Gen-X boss works with and influences other managers. Take note of how they communicate with peers, superiors, and those reporting to them. Thankfully, emotional intelligence increases as we age. But for now, it’s nice to have a leg up by learning from Generation X’s insights.

In the end, generational differences between X and Y are, for the most part, pretty superficial. If you can clue into these subtleties, you’ll find yourself relating to your Gen-X supervisor like a boss.

Photo by NEOSiAM 2020 from Pexels