They’re antsy and edgy, tired of waiting for promotion opportunities at work as their elders put off retirement. A good number of them are just waiting for the economy to pick up so they can hop to the next job, find something more fulfilling and get what they think they deserve. They want work-life balance, too.
Sounds like generation Y, the so-called “entitlement generation,” right?
Not necessarily, say people who track the generations. In these hard times, they’re also hearing strong rumblings of discontent from generation X. They’re the 32- to 44-year-olds who are wedged between baby boomers and their children, often feeling like forgotten middle siblings — and increasingly restless at work as a result.
“All of a sudden, we’ve gone from being the young upstarts to being the curmudgeons,” says Bruce Tulgan, a generational consultant who has written books about various age groups, including his fellow gen-Xers.
This isn’t the first time gen-Xers have faced tough times. They came of age during a recession and survived the dot-com bust of 2000. In recent years, though, more members of the generation — stereotyped early on as jaded individualists — had families or began settling down in other ways. It was time, they thought, to enjoy the rewards of paying some dues.
“We were starting to buy into the system, at least to some extent,” Tulgan says, “and then we got the rug pulled out from under us.”
Now, in this latest recession, nearly two-thirds of baby boomer workers, ages 50 to 61, say they might have to push back their retirement, according to a recent survey from Pew Research.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the age spectrum are gen-Yers, who are often cheaper to hire and heralded for their coveted high-tech knowledge, even though many gen-Xers consider themselves just as technologically savvy.
They can sound a little whiny. But there’s also some evidence that gen-Xers really are being taken for granted at work.
One survey done this year for Deloitte Consulting LLP, for instance, found that nearly two-thirds of executives at large companies were most concerned about losing gen-Y employees, while less than half of them had similar concerns about losing gen-Xers.