Think the Talent War is Bad? A GenXodus Would Make it Worse

From a talent and leadership perspective, there is reason for deep concern regarding an entire generation of leaders. I have spent my career working with major Fortune 500 companies and can hear a rumbling in the halls of corporate America. The natives of Generation X are restless, and companies have turned a deaf ear for too long.

Like all generations, Gen X is known for certain characteristics, for having lived through social events that impacted them. They are known for being independent, self-sufficient and flying under the radar. They were the children-of-divorce, latch-key kids who poured their own bowls of cereal for breakfast — and then poured another later in the day as an after-school snack. But now? They have passed the age when most baby boomers had their first top-level jobs. In 2015, they span the ages of thirty-six to fifty. (Here’s a Gen X pop culture yardstick: the average age of the actors from the TV show Friends is forty-seven).

And what I am hearing in organizations from Gen Xers right now is something very different than what I have heard before. Gen X is probably not going to tell you about this to your face, but many of them have stopped patiently waiting and are no longer willing to live out their careers under what I call “The Prince Charles Effect”. For many Gen Xers, a sense of discouragement has turned into a feeling of impatience. For some, impatience has turned into anger. And now anger is turning into action.

Here are some stories and first-hand quotes from some of the Gen Xers I have been coaching in corporate America. And the stories are so pointed and sharp that I wrote a book called “Passed Over and Pissed Off: The Leadership Talents of Generation X” to help all generations learn more about Gen X and collaborate more effectively. These are direct quotes, so put your big girl and big boy pants on to read them. As an external consultant I hear things that people would never say to others within their own companies.

- A female senior business analyst laments, saying “I used to tell myself I was going to do whatever it took to stick around for [acquiring roles at] the next levels up. But the reality? If I stick around, a millennial will become my boss. They [Millennials] yammer and yammer until they get what they want, and on the other side are a bunch of Baby Boomers hungry and desperate to mentor them in order to feed their own egos and ‘leave a legacy’. The synergy of that? I can see the writing on the wall”.

- A male mid-level manager who decides to leave his job and start his own company because: “I see articles on LinkedIn about Twenty-Something CEOs. If a twenty-something-year-old can do it, I can take a crack at it. I have savings, and now I finally have my student loans paid off. I’m not going to work in the rat race anymore. After all this time, when I really stop to think about it, I have never received what I need. Heck, I’ve never even been asked what I need”.

- A male business unit leader who has 17 years of seniority with a major manufacturing company. His role is pivotal for the organization and directly responsible for leading a team that brings in over 200 million dollars in revenue. He says: “I am used to stress, that’s part of the job. But above and beyond the stress? Now I have the humiliation of feeling like an idiot. HR and our Executive Committee are putting time, energy and money into looking at young people, asking themselves ‘Who do we have here who is high potential? Where are the HiPos?’ And here I am with egg on my face. You know what I am? I’m a PoPo — pissed off and passed over”.

I have heard the same stories from my friends and fellow entrepreneurs outside of work. For an example of a moving story of an Xer leaving corporate and starting his own company, watch this video of a fellow entrepreneur and friend, Vikas Narula, CEO of Keyhubs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHq_5ywmlh4

As a first member of Gen X myself, (I was born in 1966), Gen X is more than just a topic for me. It has culminated in a segment of work I greatly enjoy. I implement solutions and strategies for organizations, facilitate leadership development programs, have a large coaching practice, and conduct many speaking engagements about Gen X leaders. And my career story is absolutely identical to many Gen X stories that I am hearing more and more. In my 20s, I fell into the “yuppie” hype. In my 40s, I started my own company after working in a position where I felt stifled and saw few opportunities to move ahead. Now? I’m a near-empty-nester who is ready to completely jump into my work more than ever (which is saying a lot, having worked at senior levels in management consulting firms for decades while at the same time earning three degrees to become a doctorate-level organizational psychologist). After decades of having worked hard in corporate America, I eventually decided it was time to do the same work for my clients, but do it myself. Sound familiar?

This is exactly the concern. What would happen to your organization if both the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers started to leave at around the same time? For many years now, corporate America has been anticipating a “Talent War” with the Baby Boomer’s looming retirement on the horizon. But having Boomers and Gen Xers leave around the same time is more serious than a Talent War for the best and brightest. From a talent and leadership perspective, we might end up completely skipping the warfare part — and move directly into triage. Desperately trying to compress hemorrhaging that might never be stopped.

Until next time: be well and be rave-worthy.

Dr. Mia Mulrennan is author of the eBook “Passed Over and Pissed Off: The Overlooked Leadership Talents of Generation X” and President and CEO at Rave-Worthy LLC, a products and consulting firm. She advises clients in effectively applying tenets of psychology to achieve positive business results in areas of talent management, organizational development and service branding. Mia specializes in working with companies in high-touch customer oriented industries such as travel, hospitality, retail and consumer products. She is also adjunct faculty and an advisory board member for graduate leadership programs at the University of St. Thomas and Georgetown University’s Masters of Hospitality Management Program. For more information about the book, visit the link http://rave-worthy.com/book

#leadership, #talent, #GenerationX

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