The Gen X work problem

Ted Bauer
3 min readApr 14, 2022

First, let’s be clear: I have never been a big fan of generalizing about generations. I am making a small exception for parts of the argument in this post.

Who is Gen X?

Mid-40s to late-50s now. Molly Ringwald, baby! Kurt Cobain!

And how have they been described?

The big tropes about Gen X are “latchkey kids” and “alt-slackers” or something. But while The New York Times recently called them “a mess,” they also admitted in doing that how Gen X is the only generation that really puts its head down, goes to work, and gets shit done. Word. The Trains Moving Generation!

OK, so late 40s … career peak, maybe? Right?

Here’s some data on what’s going on with Gen X. Let me bullet point out a little bit for you:

  • In the past five years, the majority of Gen X leaders (66%) had received only one promotion or none at all — significantly fewer than their younger millennial counterparts (52%) and more senior baby boomers (58%) who were more likely to have received two or more promotions during the same period of time.
  • Only 58% of Gen X feels that they are advancing within their organization at an acceptable rate, in comparison to 65% of Millennials.
  • 34% of Gen X frontline leaders are saying that they are contemplating leaving to advance their careers.

Seems like X is getting the shaft here. But why?

Shiny Object Syndrome

That would be millennials. If you want to be a “mobile-first” or “digitally-transformed” org, the thinking is often that you need millennials rising up, because they “get” that stuff. So Shiny Object Syndrome is coming home to roost there.

He with the most gold wins

That’s Boomers. They still control the money and the decisions tied to money.

So X is…??

… in this weird middle place professionally, where they’re not tech-shiny but they don’t…

Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.