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The Coming Of The Gen X Bosses

They're ready for management roles--but are you ready for them?

They've been derided as slackers, disloyal and lazy, but guess what? Increasingly, management jobs are going to those folks--Gen Xers--born between 1965 and 1977. Why? Do the math. The oldest Gen Xers are now in their mid-30s, prime time for assuming a first management position, and the ever-tightening labor market means that even more Xers likely will get this nod. And that triggers questions: Will they manage as well as boomers have? Differently? What do we need to know to get the most out of an Xer manager? If you have one or more boomer managers, how will they relate to an Xer peer in management?

For starters, understand that more than a few gray hairs and wrinkles separate baby boomers from Gen Xers when it comes to management style. "Our research--and we've interviewed thousands of people--shows that Gen X managers are very different," says Bruce Tulgan, founder of New Haven, Connecticut, RainmakerThinking, a consulting firm that specializes in Gen X issues, and author of Managing Generation X (Capstone).

"You cannot treat Gen Xers as if they were boomers," adds management consultant Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance (Bard Press). "They just aren't motivated by the same things, and they come to work with a value system that differs in many ways from boomers'."

Therefore, it's no surprise that boomer business owners and managers just may feel unsettled when they confront an Xer manager: "It takes a strong boomer not to feel threatened," says Beverly Kaye, a Sherman Oaks, California, career development expert and author of Up Is Not The Only Way (Davies-Black).

Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or comments, e-mail

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Coming Of The Gen X Bosses.

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