At BridgeWorks, we talk a lot about generations in the workplace and marketplace—that is, after all, what we live for! How does each generation show up at work? What are each generation’s purchasing habits? But before we can even begin to address these questions, it’s important to understand where the generations came from, i.e., those angst-filled, puberty-ridden, mom-and-dad-you-don’t-understand teen years we love to look back on (now that we don’t have to go through that ish again). So we’re taking it back to the start, looking at some important events during Xers’ formative years, and pulling out some nostalgia to remind you of the good ol’ days.
WHO IS GENERATION X?
Generation Xers, also referred to as the “Slacker Generation,” “Latchkeys,” or “Baby Busters” were born between 1965 and 1979. They make up a small band of 60 million.
Xers came of age as the world seemed to fall away beneath their growing feet. Xers watched live as long-revered institutions like NASA were constantly being called into question. Government (Nixon, Clinton, Iran-contra affair), corporations (the Tylenol scare, Enron), celebrities (Milli Vanilli), and pro athletes (OJ Simpson, Pete Rose)—nothing was immune from scandal. Even the neighborhood itself seemed to grow more treacherous. Xers feared becoming the missing child on the milk carton due to a rise in kidnapping and crime. They may remember the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the rise of drugs such as crack cocaine. What’s more, this generation watched these debacles play out on live TV with the creation of 24-hour news cycles like CNN.
And divorce was playing out in many Xers’ homes. From 1960 to 1980—smack-dab in the middle of Xers’ formative years—the divorce rate more than doubled. While the parental units handled their own woes, Xers became pros at organizing their own lives. They learned how to be independent early on—letting themselves in after school, microwaving their own dinners, doing their homework—no one was hovering over them. Many Xers were parented by MTV and found community in shared interests such as grunge music or Michael Jordan. As a result, Xers are extremely self-reliant and have entered adulthood demanding work-life balance and workplace efficiency.
Sure, many Xer formative events sound like they’d make a great sequel to The Day After Tomorrow, but there were many positives as well. The personal computer hit the mass-market and paved the way for the modern office we know and love today. Xers found pop culture havens in George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise, Madonna, and Michael Jordan. The world seemed to grow a little more unified with the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Raging teenage hormones, what will you make of these conflicting feelings?! Puberty or not, these events have shaped Xers into the skeptical, independent people they are today.
- Work/Life Balance
KEY XER EVENTS + CONDITIONS
- Latchkey kids
- Video Games
- Michael Jordan
- Music Videos
- 24-hour media
- Challenger explosion
- Missing children on milk cartons
- Personal computer
- Dot com boom and bust
- AIDS epidemic
- Desert Storm
- Bill Clinton Impeachment and Acquittal
XER CULTURAL TOUCHSTONES
Toys: Rubik’s Cube, Cabbage Patch Kids, Transformers, He-Man, Hot Wheels, Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake
Favorite Pastimes: Going to the mall, video games/arcades, riding bikes, board games, outdoor games (“Kick the can”)
Popular Movies: Back to the Future, E.T. : The Extra Terrestrial, Jaws, The Breakfast Club, The Goonies, Sixteen Candles, Die Hard, Star Wars, Pretty Woman, Ghostbusters
Popular TV: MTV, Saved By The Bell, Miami Vice, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, Melrose Place, Dallas, The Dukes of Hazard
Popular Celebrities: Tom Cruise, Michael J. Fox, Nirvana, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, “The Brat Pack”
Popular Songs: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Thriller,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Modern Love,” “Material Girl,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Hip to be Square”
Video games: Pong, Space Invaders, Ms. Pac Man, Pitfall, The Oregon Trail, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros
Influential Tech: Personal Computer + Home Entertainment (VCR + Video game systems)