Gen X Needs a Rebranding – It’s Your Time to Lead

Gen X Needs a Rebranding – It’s Time for  Generation X to Lead

I clearly remember the downfall of Arthur Anderson. I remember it so well because I was working with them when Enron went down (November 2011) and brought Anderson along for the ride. Then, in early 2002 Anderson Consulting was reborn as Accenture. In response to the negative publicity, they came out from under the rubble and they rebranded.

A successful rebranding effort demands a new vision that inspires others to see a person, company, product or service in a new light. But it doesn’t end there. Once clear on the message, the word must get out and spread out through savvy marketing.

Today there is a lot of hype in the media about baby boomers. We are constantly bombarded with news about the boomers retiring, boomers and social security, boomers downsizing and even boomers exercising. And when we are not reading about the boomers, we’re reading about the Millennials /Gen Y and how they are changing the world. What we are not reading about is our next generation of leaders … Gen X

 Gen X. Remember Gen X? The generation born between 1965 -1979? The generation that has given us Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Jack Dorsey, Brene’Brown, Corey Booker, Paul Ryan, Cheryl Sandberg, Marrisa Mayer, Salman Kahn, and Robert Downey Junior (now that’s a brand make-over!)

Gen X, the generation that is sandwiched in between the boomers and millennials.

You might remember them as the “Slacker Generation.” When Gen X entered the workplace in late 80’s and early 90’s, the media (who were boomers) painted a very negative picture: they dubbed them the slackers. Other words used to describe Gen X were grungers, negative, cynical, apathetic, challengers of authority, latchkey-kids, and losers. wah waaah.


Back then, Time Magazine described them as “cautious” in this oft-cited article:

“They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial. They hate yuppies, hippies and druggies. They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. They sneer at Range Rovers, Rolexes and red suspenders. What they hold dear are family life, local activism, national parks, penny loafers and mountain bikes.” (Time, 1990)


As many of us know … Time Magazine was wrong! They took back some of the snarky remarks  in  2000, But many still remember the Brand. So, Gen X, you need a rebranding plan.


As Gen X has aged and blossomed the negative sterotype have mellowed, but the brand is still a little dull and needs a little polish. My intention is to be part of a campaign to help them speak their truth and shine a more honest and more honestly positive light on the real Gen X. You are the generations that was raised with real-world experiences, you are comfortable with technology, you have the awareness of global issues, you are sensible, reasonable and logical, you have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, AND you are in the middle of your career and your life.


Here’s a little more that we have learned about you Gen X:                                 

  • Gen X brought work life balance into the forefront. The quote “Never confuse having a career with having a life” was printed on the Eddie Bauer shopping bags.
  • The divorce rate in the U.S. is now the lowest it’s been in 40 years and many credit this change to Generation X. Since a large percentage of  Gen Xers come from divorced families, many of them vowed they would not divorce when they were adults. Gen Xers are a family focused generation as they have moved into middle adulthood.
  • Gen Xers are actively involved parents demonstrating that they are a generation who values education and encourage and support their children in attaining educational goals.
  • Generation X is a generation of independence. Because parents left Gen X to themselves (the Latchkey-kids) they are a generation that learned how to be independent early in their lives.
  • This creative generation defined the do-it-yourself DIY cultural ethos, and many turned entrepreneurial when they entered the job market in a down economy in the early 90s.
  • A big thank you goes out to Gen X women for the ban panty hose!
  • Gen X is highly productive and knows how to “Get Stuff Done.”
  • Left alone (no hovering parents) and allowed to fail, this generation is the most innovative and creative of all the generations and have lead the way in technology and music. (Garage Technology/Garage Bands)
  • Generation X’s sullenness has softened into a sensibility has been driving openness and transparency in business. Gen X has helped change cultures and policies of corporate America and they have done it from the inside out.
  •  Generation X members had the most casualties and were also the major heroes on September 11th. They were the police and firefighters. They were the passengers who crashed the plane rather than having it go on to Washington, DC. They were the workers in the World Trade Center Towers. Gen X members responded to the terrorist attacks with bursts of patriotism and national fervor that surprised even themselves.


Today we are facing a world with finite limits,  a place where there are no easy answers, and the sobering realization that we are encountering significant, intractable problems on multiple fronts. Gen X, this is your time. It’s interesting that the most negative elements of your childhood and early adult life may well be those that will provide you with the strongest capabilities today. Your courage, guts, determination, pragmatism, and values are what we need in our politics, our businesses and our communities.

Gen X, it’s your time –

A time for a new generation of leadership.

Gen X is the Bridge between the Boomers and the Y’s

Generation X (those born 1965-1979) were raised to  operate independently. Women were leaving the homemaker role behind, and heading off to work. The working mom in the 70’s  had no daycare or nannies to watch over her children.  Many Gen X preteens/teens  were now in charge! Boomers dubbed them the “latch key kids”-  with no parents hovering over them Gen X became independent. They developed traits of  resilience , creativity, and adaptability. So, they don’t want you or anyone micromanaging them. They were raised to operate independently.


Bossypants-Who’s the boss? Gen X Tina Fey says she is!

I love Tina Fey and 30 Rock is my favorite show on TV so of course reading Bossypants was a no-brainer.   And if you like a little Gen X humor with a tiny sting, introspection and Girl Power you are going to love this book…like I did.

It’s  memoir where  the funny, nerdy, not so pretty, raised in the 70’s Gen X girl from Pennsylvania, takes us on a journey-  her childhood, college years, her crummy first job, her days as an improve comic in Chicago, her nine years at Saturday Night Live to the fabulous 30 Rock!
Right off the bat in the introduction, Tina tells us that the book is meant to satisfy all reading needs, whether you are a woman trying to make it in a male-dominated workplace, a parent wanting to raise an achievement oriented drug-free child, a Sarah Palin-lover, or just someone looking for a laugh, and I laughed out loud so many times…it’s hilarious.

What I love the most about the book is Tina’s career advice which I found  great for professional speakers and performers, like  anytime you perform  for an audience that isn’t there voluntarily it’s hard. She gives women a ton of advice which I loved, especially telling women to trust their instincts and just do your jobs the best way you know how not caring what others think! And if Gen Y reads this book they are going to discover that getting to 30 Rock included and still includes hard work, perseverance, and at times having to be the bossypants.

Oh…the cover may upset you! Get over it…and remember Tina says that you can’t boss people around if they really don’t care!

A Little Gen X History-Making Tapes and Sharing Their Mix!

For the past five years I have either done the opening keynote or a presented a general session  at   the January THLA Short Course Conference for the  held here in Houston.  Each year I poll the audience to see how many Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y’ers are attending the session.And for the past few years the Baby Boomers won with the highest participants.

This year there were only 4 Boomers in the room! Gen X and Gen Y are int majority of my audiences!

Learn about Gen X in this Video Clip

Gen X and Gen Y–Starting a new trend older folks will just love!


When I was a kid we called the term of handing your outgrown clothes and toys to a younger member of the family “The Hand-Me-Downs.” Since I was the baby of the family I got a whole lot of Hand-Me-Downs. Well there’s a new trend brewing. Handing-Ups! It seems that Gen X and Gen Y are Handing-up to their parents, older siblings, and aunties their old cell phones, digital cameras, computers, and any other electronic gadgets they no longer want. The term hand me up, came about by Wired Magazines’ Bruce Sterling first described the trend of younger generations handing off their slightly outdated, recently replaced tech products to parents or other older family members. Sounds like a great plan. Sounds like something Apple already knew. (How do you think I got my first Macbook Pro?  Waiting patiently for my iPad)

Gen X -MiniVan Out Swagger Wagon In

Just for fun by Karen

Hey it’s 96 degrees here in Houston,it’s summertime! For many of us, it’s off to Colorado, New York or Orlando.  But, have you checked out the air fares? They are killer! Driving is the only way. Gen X traded in thier parents Boomer mini-vans for the Swagger Wagon.

Baby Boomers Discover Social Media! Not Just for Gen X and Gen Y

When My Space came on the scene in 2002 most adults thought that is was a way for the “kids” to flaunt their stuff. Back then, social media was considered a teen-age fad. Well, today those “kids” make up over 60% of our population and every day that number is growing.  I just read the by 2010 Gen Y will outnumber the baby boomers and 96% of them are on a social network. If you haven’t noticed, social media is growing at warped speed.

To put things into prospective, it took the telephone 75 years to reach 50 million users-the radio 38 years, TV 13 years, the internet 4 years, and the iPod 3 years. Today Facebook reached 100 million uses in less than 9 months! And it isn’t the just kids that are joining Facebook. The largest segment of the population joining Facebook today is comprised of women between the ages of 55 and 65.

Linkedin is the business-oriented social media site that is mainly used for  professional networking. People that know how to use Linkedin use it to gain an introduction to someone they wish to know through a mutual, trusted contact. 80% of companies are now using Linked in as their primary tool to find and research new hires.

Not only are we using Twitter to share ideas, follow thought leaders, and connect with friends, today we are also sharing our customer experiences on Twitter. 80% of all tweets come from mobile devices.  That means that people are using twitter all the time, wherever they happen to be.  If you are upset with Comcast because your internet and phone have been down for hours, you can tweet about it!  If your bed at the Westin was lumpy just tweet away, and if your service was simply remarkable at your Toyota dealer remark about it on Twitter. Twitter is allowing the consumer to take control and share their good and their not so good experiences. Marketing and traditional advertising is changing!

There are over 200,000,000 blogs out there and bloggers are posting their opinions about everything from government healthcare debates to that delicious pizza they just ate and over half of them post their blogs on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

It is clear that social media isn’t a trendy youthful fad.  It is becoming  a fundamental way we communicate and spread the word. Even my older sister Patty has come on board.  Last week she created her Facebook page.  She said it’s the only way she can communicate with her 13 grandchildren.  Now if I could only convince her to stop writing in all caps.  She says it’s the only way she can see the type…

Generation-X: Time to Pass the Torch

Gen X: There Will Never Be Another!

As with most generational labels, “Generation X” is a somewhat negative term, coined by Douglas Coupland, author of the 1991 book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. For Coupland, the letter “X” was meant to signify the generation’s random, ambiguous, and contradictory ways.

Generation Xers were the children born during a time of shifting social and family values, a challenging economy, and advances in technology in the U.S.

Boomers, who were also called the “Me Generation,” were deep into self-actualizing, and their focus seemed to be less on their children and more on themselves and their careers.

Looking back-

Gen X kids grew up in harder times than the Boomers. Between 1979 and 1995, some 43 million jobs were lost through corporate downsizing. Newly created jobs paid less and offered fewer benefits, and stagflation appeared. In economics, stagflation happens when the inflation rate is high, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment remains steadily high.

Many families needed more than one income to survive and women reentered the workforce to provide the extra income. The challenges in the American economy combined with other social changes, including the Pill, feminism, increased levels of education among women and men, revolutionized the American family.

A new trend was occurring: American couples began to marry later, have fewer children, and divorce more frequently. In 1973, when “the Pill” went on the market, most Americans lived in nuclear-style families. The average married couple had three to four children, and mothers stayed home and tended to the family. By 2000, the average family had shrunk to two children (that’s why this generation is so small), and one out of two marriages was ending in divorce. Almost a third of American children were being raised by a single parent or an unmarried couple—further contributing to profound changes in family dynamics.

Freedom! Growing Up in the 70’s and 80’s

Freedom! Well sort of … kids had lots of freedom back in the 70s and 80s. They played outside! They had wheels—their bikes—and they got to roam and ride all day until the streetlights came on at night. More than likely, this childhood freedom will never happen again. Helicopter parents have entered the building!

The term “Latchkey Kids,” a name created by Boomers, referred to children who came home from school to an empty house because mom was working. The kids of this era were given a great deal of responsibility and a list of chores was often left on the kitchen table to be completed before mom got home: empty the dishwasher, plug in the crock pot, do your homework, and help your brother and sister with theirs, fill the ice cube trays, set the table, and don’t make a mess. The responsible Xer did get many of the items on the list done, but only after hours of watching MTV, listening to the radio, and making mixed-tapes to share with their friends.

Now let’s pause for a moment. If you were born between 1964 and 1979 and your mom did not work and you did not have lots of independence, you may be more like a Boomer than a Gen Xer. The same goes for Boomers, no matter what your age, if your mom worked and you were left alone to be independent and more personally responsible, you may relate more to Gen X.

Let’s go back to the growing-up years of Gen X and reflect on them. Parents and even teachers did not coddle this generation along with the Boomers. Gen X saw first hand that their parents were human and fallible, and they often found themselves giving their parents advice and comfort. Autonomy and self-reliance, rather than respect for authority, were natural byproducts of the Generation X childhood.

Looking back at this generation, it’s easy to see that Gen X could possibly be the last generation of children and teens to grow up with freedom, independence, and the luxury to try different things on their own, fail, and try again.

Gen X: Skeptical and Cynical – Reality Bites

Xers grew up seeing lost children on milk cartons and taking their Halloween candy to the hospital to get it x-rayed because a neighbor may have slipped a razor blade or pins into their Milk Duds. They watched TV when a frying pan came on the screen and heard a voice announce, “This is your brain,” and then an egg was cracked into a pan with the voice explaining, “This is your brain on drugs!”

They also grew up in an era when many of the sacred institutions (churches, schools, government) fell apart or let them down. Gen Xers saw corporations like Enron and WorldCom crumble, leaving their employees with empty pension funds. They watched in real time as the doomed Challenger exploded, and as Heisman winner O.J. was crouched in the back of his white Bronco while his friend drove it down a Los Angeles freeway. Here are the dates for the memorable events that squelched their ability to blindly trust and also added to their skeptical nature:

1972 – Watergate Scandal

1973 – Energy Crisis and Long Gas Lines

1979 – Three Mile Island Meltdown

1980s – Priest, Politician, and Teacher Scandals

1986 – Challenger Disaster

1990s – Corporate Layoffs (parents laid off)

1992 – Rodney King Beating / Police Brutality

1995 – Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal

2001 – Enron / Tyco Corporate Scandal

                             “Never confuse having a career with having a life,”

                                         Eddie Bauer Shopping bag slogan. 

Can We Have a Little Balance?

Generation X entered the workforce when the Boomers were in their prime, and early on there were not many areas for this generation to flourish—except, of course, in technology!

Because many Gen Xers learned independence early in life, this attribute turned out to be a valuable trait and Xers progressed in their work and in the world. As writer Mary Donohue proudly writes in her article in the Huffington Post, “Gen X is your bread and butter. They have worked through more recessions than their parents or grandparents ever did. Most often they are executive leaders who are on the cusp of becoming the C-class, but aren’t thriving in the workplace. The closer these workers get to 55 the more their knowledge becomes invaluable to your organization and to your customers. They are your intellectual capital.”

Because many Gen Xers had early contact with the “real world,” they are highly self-reliant and positioned to take on leadership in all organizations—corporate, non-profit, and community. As a whole they are serious about meeting commitments, have a strong sense of purpose, and are highly resilient. Gen X is the generation who wants options/choices since they don’t want to be cornered into just one and only one single way of doing something. They are innovative, creative, and insightful. These qualities position them for great leadership in an era of disruptive thinking. Gen X values new ideas and “out of the box” thinking.

As leaders today, they must help organizations become more collaborative. They must continue to ask great questions and get others excited and engaged in work and projects. They must embrace complexity and continue to seek new answers and new disruptions. And they must keep up their need for authenticity, purpose, and mission in the workplace and world.

Is There a Little Generation X in YOU?


Shutterstock ImageAs a Generations in the Workplace speaker the most asked question is, “How did they come up with the dates that define a generation?” Wikipedia states that A generation is “all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively. The Center for Generational Kinetics tells us  that.a generation is a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place. People in this “birth cohort” exhibit similar characteristics, preferences, and values over their lifetimes.

When I present keynotes on the Generations in workplace, and give the dates that each generation falls into,  many come up and say that they do not fit- they are more like a ______. I tell audiences that there are other factors that contribute to your generation. Let’s look at  GenX- If you were born between 1965 and 1979 and your mom did not work and you did not have lots of independence, you may be more like a Boomer(1946-1964)  than a Gen Xer (1965-1980). The same goes for Boomers or Millennials (1981-2000), no matter what your age, if your mom worked and you were left alone to be independent and more personally responsible, you may relate more to Gen X.

SO…Take the Quiz and see how much Gen X is in you.  The more you say YES.. the more you are like Gen X than your generation!

Is There a Little Gen X in You?


1.  My life defines me and my work is a means to an end, consequently “I work to live.”


2.  I am a self-starter, and I am willing to work hard when I see that it’s necessary, but don’t interrupt me when I am focused.


3. I am a saver $$$$$ and I save for the future.


4.  I enjoy doing DYI projects in my free time.


5.  I use social media to engage with my friends, and I value their reviews and suggestions.


6.  I find that I would rather work on my own, where I want, and when I want—telecommunications work.


7.  I have been known to be direct and even abrupt, and I can’t tolerate BS.


8.  I keep my personal life separate from my work life when possible.


9.  I admit I am a little overprotective of my kids and accepting of the term “helicopter parent.”


      10.  I value my friends and their opinions many times over that of my parents.(sorry Mom)

Hello Generation Interruption- Generations in the Workplace


Photo by

Many of you know I speak around the country on the subjects of Generations in the Workplace, Change and Rebranding, and Generational Opportunities. A few weeks ago I returned home from an event where the team who booked me was under the impression that my 45-minute presentation would give them the quick and easy steps in “How to Manage Your Millennial.” The director said that these young kids are a huge interruption in his day… and that got me thinking!

Interruption- an abrupt occurrence that interrupts an ongoing activity

Are they an interruption or a wake-up call to the future?

There is no silver bullet when it comes to  managing Millennials. AKA Generation Y. It’s a bit more complicated than that. The key to successfully managing this generation begins with understanding them.  They view the world, lifestyles, and work very differently than the generations preceding them. The unpopular news to previous generations is that you have to meet Millennials (Gen Y)  where they are—and, yes, it will take more energy, but if you invest the extra time, you are more likely to keep them and their talents in your organization. Forcing them to conform to your way will only push them out, and they will be quick to leave.

Here Are Some Gen Y  Expectations that are changing the world of work: 

• Work with positive people, to be treated with respect , and to be asked for their input—it’s  called inclusion.

• Work on challenging projects with an engaged team that cares about outcomes.

• Gain knowledge from a variety of tasks, so they can grow their career faster.

• See the route to their future and their career path in your organization.

• Ability to leverage technology work—any time/any place.

• Evaluation on work product—not how, when or where the work is done.

• Need transparency about compensation and what it takes to get ahead.

Hey…I want these things too~

Relationships Matter

Millennials are known for their love of technology, texting, and connecting online. But did you know that they also value clear communication and authentic relationships, along with a need to have an understanding of expectations? Millennials wants to interact directly and often with their managers and coworkers.

In addition, they want to work in a friendly place where they feel a sense of acceptance and enjoyment in the workplace environment.  They want to identify with the company core values and work with people who share their priorities. They are very willing to leave if the company purpose does not align with their own values. Anything less would mean they are not being individually authentic, and therefore cannot relate to managers and fellow team members in an authentic way.

Isn’t That Special!

Millennials were told by their parents that they were special, and they believed it!  It is important for this generation to stand out and celebrate their uniqueness. They are proud of their individuality and look for ways to express themselves, which previous generations see expressed as tattoos, piercings, hair color, and dress. An astute manager will help Millennials  balance their need to be unique and, yet, still be in sync with the organization’s needs and brand.  This may take some creative thinking.

Show Me My Career Path

Let’s be realistic. Not all Millennials look at their first job as their final career. Many younger employees consider their work “something to do between weekends,” and are not thinking about climbing the corporate ladder.

But, the more focused Millennials (high potentials) have a self-centered work ethic and are in search of a career path. If you are working with the “High Potentials,” show them where they fit into your organization. Take the time to show them a career path and open their eyes to the opportunities available in your organization in all departments.

“This Millennial generation is not just looking for a job, they’re not just looking for salary and financial benefits, they’re looking for skill development, they’re looking for mobility, they’re looking for opportunities to acquire different skills and to move quickly from one part of an organization to another. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what’s been done in the past.”

—Dennis Nally, PricewaterhouseCoopers HR Director

Managers Need a Big Dose of Self-Awareness

I am listening to my audiences and what I am hearing is that managers are frustrated.  They don’t want to spend time training the new hires and feel that they are a huge interruption in their day.  They just expect them to know.  In fact, one person said if they have to train someone, they aren’t worth hiring.

The biggest challenge for organizations is to ask themselves are they open and willing to make a shift.  If so, they must bend to accommodate the millennial mindset or lose their talents, which are considerable.

That said, the need for young talent is enormous.  Competition is fierce to recruit and retain the best talent.  Organizations unable or unwilling to make the shift will pay dearly for their inflexibility.

Millennials ( I am now calling  them Generation Interruption) have the ability to transform disruption of the workplace into profit for your company.  But first, your managers must be willing to adapt and change to fit their needs. Are you up for the challenge?

Then you need to decide if your company culture can adapt and move ahead. Can your organization get out of the default mode and try new things to meet the needs of this new talented generation of Millennials who are going to carry us into the future?