Cisco Canada Blog

Gen X 3.0: No more Middle Child Syndrome

September 29, 2015

We Gen Xers[1] have often been labelled as disaffected, ignored, sandwiched between the boomers (the trailblazers) and millennials (the innovators). I don’t think Douglas Copeland intended to malign us but we’ve always been referred to as the “slacker generation”. Nowadays, the media and organizational behaviourists focus on millennials and their style, their needs, their wants … So what about us? Most of us Xers are going to be in the workplace for another 20-plus years, so we too are interested in new ways of working, new applications, innovating, being agile … all the “millennial traits”. Are we really that different??

This summer Cisco Canada moved to a beautiful new office space. It is open concept with lots of informal shared spaces (we have fun booths and funky couches). At the same time, our summer interns were on-boarded. As the Collaboration Marketing Manager, I have a vested interest in understanding how people collaborate, so I found myself acting a little like a cultural anthropologist observing the way this generation worked. 

They cluster and congregate in these shared spaces and work on projects jointly.

They use video on all their calls.

They embrace teamwork apps like Spark and WebEx with no training (you don’t have to explain things twice).

They don’t care much for the phone … that is, a landline phone with a receiver, anyway.

So a bit different from Gen Xers … but not so much.

Our HR VP David Heather recently participated in part one of a three-part webinar series around workplace transformation called “Is it Time for a Collaboration Officer?” where he talked about more productive ways of working – no matter what generation you fall in. He spoke about the importance of collaboration within an organization and how it affects employee engagement and company profitability. You can access the recording here and register now for the next two parts.

So what’s the lesson? We all have different styles, but we need to be more progressive in how we work or else we’ll become obsolete. Let’s not let the ‘Gen X’ label position us as laggards. We too are curious, early adopters and innovators.

p.s. when I told our Social Media Manager (millennial) that I was going to write this blog she really encouraged me to create a video instead … so we created this short companion video on three behaviours Xers should adopt to stay relevant.

[1] There are varying definitions of Gen X. For the purposes of this blog, Gen X is referred to people born between 1961 to 1981.

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  1. Andrea – I completely echo your observations about the commonalities between Gen X and Gen Y! Great piece – well done!