Generational Gyrations

The business cycle gives rise to generations of haves and have-nots: How do "jealous" Gen Xers manage "arrogant" Yers?

Over the years, there's been much written about Generation X in the workplace. Only 10 years ago, Xers were turning corporate policy on its ear. Baby Boomers saw young Xers as brash and unmanageable, and Xers saw themselves as self-reliant individuals who didn't need (or trust) traditional corporate structure.

As they say, what goes around comes around. Now in their 30s and late 20s, those Gen X upstarts are finding themselves in a situation they've never faced before: managing a younger generation-the new group of employees in their early 20s known as Generation Y, which has a different outlook on life and work.

"Gen Xers had the mac-and-cheese years of struggle where, even after grad school, they still found themselves working up the ladder. Now a 22-year-old kid walks in who can't shave yet and wants an $80,000 salary," says Steven Rothberg, 35, founder and president of Minneapolis-based CollegeRecruiter.com, a job search Web site. He says most Gen X-led companies he recruits for begrudgingly accept the demands of the market. "They hate it, but they deal with it. They feel they're having to pay unfair wages," he says. "There's an under-lying anger."

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the April 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Generational Gyrations.

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