X, Y, BOOM! Generations at Work

Barbara Richter

Gen Xers are pragmatic, adaptable, techno-literate and good at multitasking. They grew up dealing with change. The children of early Boomers, they have always been in the Boomers’ shadow. Many were raised in single-parent families, or with both parents working, and are often described as the generation that raised itself. The term “latchkey kids” was coined for them.

Gen Xers are very comfortable with changing technology, having grown up with personal computers, video games, remote controls and TV with 200 channels. Defining events in their lives included the end of the Cold War, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, free trade agreements, AIDS, economic uncertainty, increased drugs use and violence, and the faces of missing children on milk cartons.

Gen Xers  are  a  sceptical  generation  –  they need  proof.  They  grew  up  seeing institutions and revered public figures wracked by scandal. As a result they respect competence and have more faith in themselves and their peer group than in external authority. They are loyal to their relationships but not necessarily to institutions. They are the first generation to date in groups.

Teachers who  are  Gen Xers work hard  and spend cautiously, having begun their careers with heavy education debt loads. They know they are the first generation that may not surpass their parents economically.

Gen  Xers  also  want  balance:  they  are  not prepared  to  sacrifice  their  health,  marriages, relationships, and personal lives to career as their parents did. Freedom is their ultimate reward. They  seek  autonomy,  a  comfortable  schedule, and time to spend with family and friends (who are generally not people from work).

Gen Xers started teaching in the mid-1980s, and prefer a casual and relaxed workplace. They see many Baby Boomer achievements – like protection for seniority – as an impediment rather than a protection against indiscriminate layoffs.

They have also experienced radical changes in the profession and in the workplace: the recession of the early 90s; the “social contract” imposed by the provincial NDP government; the subsequent election of a Conservative government that cut education funding; the creation of a professional regulatory body, the College of Teachers; school board amalgamations; the amalgamation of teachers’ federations and the removal of principals as members of the federation; new curriculum and standardized testing.

Echo Boomers  a planned childhood