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Generation X... The Forgotten Generation?

February 8, 2017
  • Workplace

Insights from Rob Kirkbride, editor-in-chief of Bellow Press

Every generation is told that one day they will have a chance to run the show — to really change the way the world works (literally and figuratively). My generation’s time in power lasted exactly three years.

I’ll excuse you if you blinked and missed Generation X’s lilliputian epoch as the dominant generation within the labor force. That’s because it was very short-lived. Gen X statistically took over in 2012 when 52.9 million of us surpassed the Baby Boom labor force to become the largest generation in the workforce. It unceremoniously ended in 2015 when Millennials took over.

If you are between the ages of 37 and 52, the definition of a Generation Xer, you might be asking yourself: Did I miss my work prime? And who are all these young kids running around in my office?

So let’s take a look at the brief, but illustrious attributes found in the forgotten generation — Generation X.

Generation X is all about workplace flexibility. So if you are working from home while reading this or in a Starbucks Coffee shop, you are benefiting from a Gen X demand. You are welcome. It is the generation that demanded workplace flexibility and untethered us from office. The vast majority of us want flexible work arrangements. And we like to work independently — about 70 percent prefer it, according to one study. That independence comes from the fact that many Gen Xers were latchkey kids, kids who grew up in the first era where divorce was common and children were left to fend for themselves. That makes us independent, resourceful and self-sufficient.

Generation X remains loyal to our employers. While a Met Life study showed 40 percent of Generation Xers are working in the career they intended when they entered the workforce, Millennials are expected to have four job changes by the time they reach 32. And almost a quarter of Gen X has been with the same employer for 15 years or longer. But don’t cross us. Many in Generation X display a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours and hate being micro-managed.

Gen X is arguably the hardest working generation, but demand a healthy work/life balance. A Reader’s Digest survey showed that 74 percent of Generation X respondents agreed with the statement: “Hard work is the key to getting ahead,” a larger percentage than any other generation. And we are technologically adept, the first to grow up with computers and technology.

Even though much is made about Baby Boomers and Millennials, when it comes to the work world, Generation X continues to punch above its weight. Though we are a small group, we continue to shape the workplace in a profound way. Many in leadership roles in the world’s top design firms are Gen Xers, as are a large number of furniture designers.

So if you Googled this article, that was made possible by Alphabet CEO Larry Page or if you are heading to lunch based on a recommendation from Yelp, you can thank founder Jeremy Stoppelman. Both are from Generation X.

For more insights from Rob Kirkbride and to read his publications Business of Furniture and Workplaces Magazine, click here.

by Rob Kirkbride 

Rob is editor-in-chief at Bellow Press, where he manages the editorial direction for Business of Furniture and Workplaces magazines ( Business of Furniture is fast becoming the weekly go-to source for news about the contract interiors industry while Workplaces takes a much broader look at how work is changing and the forces that are driving that change. He began his career in the daily newspaper industry, working at the Ann Arbor News and Grand Rapids Press covering a variety of beats, including government, police and business. His love for the industry began at the Grand Rapids Press, where he was a business reporter covering the furniture industry in Furniture City. That lead to a job as senior editor at The Monday Morning Quarterback, where he spent 10 years immersed in the industry. In October 2015, he left MMQB to start Bellow Press, publishers of Business of Furniture and Workplaces magazines with his business partners, Melissa Skolnick and Todd Hardy. Rob has a bachelor's degree in journalism with an emphasis in economics from Michigan State University. When not writing, Rob is an avid record collector with more than 3,000 titles in his vinyl collection. He is also a voracious reader and, unfortunately, a long-suffering Detroit Lions fan.


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