The Generational Divide - How to Motivate and Retain Gen X
By Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA

Do you ever feel like an alien in your own environment? Many leaders and employees hope Generation X (between the ages of 25 and 40) workers will miraculously turn into to something they recognize and understand. Have you learned how to cope with these different people? Do you realize the cost if you have not?

Employee turnover can cost big bucks. Spherion Corporation of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. says one accepted method for calculating the cost of losing an employee - including the expense of recruiting, relocating and training a replacement - is to multiply the salary by 1.5. The average salary for a white-collar worker in the U.S. in 2004 was $42,000, according to the Department of Labor, so replacing a departing worker could cost an employer around $63,000. Has money been wasted in your environment?
Gen Xers are more inclined than boomers to leave a job if their needs aren't met.
Spherion also found that 51% of respondents under 40 said they were likely to look for a new job within the next year, while only 25% of those older than 40 said the same. Does your budget allow for this kind of turnover?
The problem? No amount of wand waving or candle lighting will make Gen X into something they don't want to be.
The solution: building knowledge and understanding of the differences of Gen X and Boomers -- the two largest portions of the workforce today.
Did you know that?
    80% of the Baby Boomers plan to work past retirement?
    Generation X and Generation Y (1981-1999) are not large enough to cover the Boomer retirement gap?
    Given that Generation X, all 80 million of them, are the largest segment of business today, it is prudent that we understand them.
    EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) complaints are up 41% since 1999?
No mater when you were born, we must understand the impact generations have on our workplace. The following is a typical recap of Baby Boomers and Gen X, the largest portion of the workplace today.
Baby Boomers - approximately 80 million people; born 1946 - 1964
    Open minded, ambitious, loyal and job status is important
    Espouse "inclusive" leadership
    Workplace process and output (not implications and outcomes)
Gen X - 46 million people; born 1965 - 1980
    Many were "latchkey kids" so they are typically resourceful, self-reliant and irreverent
    Job flexibility is at the top of their list of essential characteristics of a position
    Workplace relationships and outcomes are important
    Do not solely define themselves by their job
    Loyalty or status not necessarily important and they are easy to recruit, hard to retain
The bridge to successfully managing Gen X:
Whether on WIFI at the local coffee shop or in the comfort of their home office, Gen X wants flexibility. Working from home affords employees some flexibility to balance their own priorities of family, educational pursuits, leisure and community activity can lead to better performance as well as higher retention rates, according to David Ballard, Psychological Healthy Workplace Guru for the American Psychological Association. Also:
Tell them WHAT not HOW so review the expected outcomes.
    Give multiple tasks. Allow them to prioritize.
    Ask for reactions and opinions consistently.
    Give them informal recognition (like days off).
    Apply effective and flexible leadership skills and encourage them from others.
    Give regular, honest feedback. They expect it and not just in annual appraisals.
    Offer mentoring and coaching. If you don't know how, learn!
    They want opportunities to learn new skills, making ongoing training essential.
The 40-year spread in the workplace can create tremendous creativity with the results being dynamic solutions, improved productivity and increased profits. These differences can also create turbulence, conflict and dysfunctional teams not to mention the cost of turnover. Study and learn about each segment of the population and respect their differences, especially the differing opinions you may have developed. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of the Generational Differences spread sheet, which includes Traditionalists (born before 1946), Baby Boomers, Gen X and Generation Y, send an email to
For more information about Marsha Petrie Sue go to Book Marsha, the Decontaminator of Toxic People, to ignite your next meeting or event! 1.866.661.8756 for booking information or email at
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