by Stephen Bray
Generation X, people born between 1964 and 1989, are our rising stars many of whom are just entering into their prime. Born into a precarious world when a cold war between East and West threatened atomic destruction and growing up knowing that life is tenuous, they seek instant or early gratification via a marketable academic talent or streetwise ability.
And, Generation X, the progeny of the post WW2 baby boomers, certainly are street wise! Conceived in an optimistic peacetime against a background of hitherto unknown wealth many Generation Xers were latchkey children  disconnected from their extended families and neighbourhood communities. Some witnessed the separation of their parents before the onset of their teens. Generation Xers soon learned, of necessity to be emotionally independent and self- reliant and, with one or both parents working, they demanded material compensation for lack of parental contact. Then as now children and young people were targeted as consumers with ample spending power. Generation Xers have been trained to collect branded products as rewards for ‘good behaviour’ from an early age. The speed of technological advance and force of fashion mean that many of these rewards are ‘hollow’ because they soon become outdated and in need of replacement. Consumerism significantly shaped the Xer’s philosophy. The potential talent and creativity of Generation Xers has a hard sugar-coating of destructive self-love. Many well-educated Xers finding themselves unemployed or in work that did not require a university education, became frustrated and bitter, and now face a potential second defeat with middle age approaching. Generation X tends to distrust institutions. They adapt poorly to the hierarchical systems common in family business, often preferring to create their own employment or even forming their own companies. Older style management tends to react badly to them, considering them to be ‘spoilt’ or ‘arrogant.’ Traditional managers then react by seeking to exert more controls through micro-management offering salary incentives, or bonuses as a means to push up productivity. Completely failing to appreciate the psychology of Generation X they then blame the employee when these ‘incentives’ don’t work! A major criticism of Generation X is a lack of company loyalty. Xers are seen as people who move rapidly where the rewards are greatest. Managing Generation X requires a revolutionary approach. Each employee needs to be carefully evaluated, coached and developed. possibilities for immediate implementation. Their ability to take initiatives must not simply be acknowledged, it must be positively encouraged with A Generation Xer expects instant results and rewards. In many respects this is more akin to the company’s founder than its senior managers. In today’s digital environment this attitude is precisely what business needs even though the company style will – and must - change. A criticism of employee initiative is that an incompetent or dishonest employee might easily cause damage. When Nick Leeson a stockmarket trader, managed to conceal his losses on the Singapore Exchange his employer, Britain’s oldest (merchant?) bank, was ruined. Complexity and incompetence in the hierarchy of supervision had allowed this to happen. When a top-heavy micro-managing culture prevails in a context where decisions must be made quickly, decisions and procedures may suffer. Digital systems flexible enough to enable entrepreneurial flair but capable of intelligently monitoring performance will reduce costly errors or deceit. Herb Kelleher CEO of Southwest Airlines, operates from a style that he calls ‘Management by Fooling Around’. He says: “I would sooner have a company that is bound by love, rather than fear.” Employees