Generation X and Generation Y - Oil & Water?

Some thoughts on what Xers and Yers have in common - where we connect:
  • Sense of humor
  • Idealism
  • Belief in hard work
  • Respect for integrity
  • Persistence
Where there tends to be tension:
  • Gen Yers tend to think of Xers as: somewhat negative, "intense," aggressive, not team players, not totally trustworthy. 
  • Gen Xers tend to think of Yers as having an overinflated opinion of themselves - expecting reward before reward is earned; not bleak enough in their outlook; not willing to speak truth to power; not totally trustworthy. 
How Gen Yers can do well with an Xer boss:
  • Be extremely good at what you do on a technical level.
  • Show that you are hardworking and want to work your way up the chain legitimately.
  • Be respectful. 
  • Be responsive to requests quickly and do the best you can, even if you don't totally know what to do. 
  • Speak up when something is wrong.
If you want to be an absolutely outstanding Gen Y employee:
  • Know that you are part of the "certificate" generation as in you got a certificate or a trophy for simply breathing. Forget about what you're entitled to and get to work.
  • Take more time to get to the heart of the matter. Consider the subtle context around a task before you say something about it.
  • Provide complete work that is fully thought through - not just something half-assed. If you have to do a halfway job because of the time factor, tell your boss about it so they don't get annoyed thinking you did lousy work and then submitted it - making them in effect redo your job.
  • Teach the elders technology in a nice way. They are scared to ask for help. In return they can teach you important institutional knowledge that you can't learn in school.
  • Understand that it takes time to learn the ropes. 
  • Get out of the generational mold and interact with people at all ages, stages and groups across the agency. (This is something Yers are better than Xers at, very naturally.) Don't be put off because somebody else seems very different from you, and unrelatable.
How Gen Xers can do well with Y employees:
  • Let them do things their way.
  • Give them big responsibility and then GIVE THEM CREDIT for their work.
  • Don't be intimidated by their technical expertise.
  • Mentor them on the things they don't easily get - the subtleties that go past them.
  • Explain the larger context behind the task but don't be long-winded.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.