Gen-X and the Corporate World

From an interesting post by Tamara Erickson (here); the remarkable section is the comments.  Wow, Tammy’s post generated some serious discontent, albeit few answers.  To that end, I’ve found a couple of approaches that at least promote engagement:

  • Intrapreneurship works wonders for Gen X-ers so inclined. I have several very bright colleagues in my group who just aren’t happy being “grinders”. In other words, they’re keen on creating and innovating a new process, product, etc., but they want to move on to the next “start-up”. Many would leave or become less productive if they didn’t get a chance to cut their teeth anew.
  • Successful corporate X-ers seem to know themselves well.  I’ve used some of the personality inventories — MBTI, True Colors, etc. — to at least start the conversation about to work effectively among diverse colleagues. This approach often unlocks a great strength of the generation — flexibility — which is critical for my group, which works across time zones, cultures, functions, etc.

I have at least sympathy, if not empathy, for Gen-X’s corporate struggles.  By traditional demography, I’m a Boomer (born 1961); however, culturally and psychologically I relate much more to Gen-X.  Which, of course, makes sense considering my cohort was what Douglas Coupland was writing about.  Besides, can someone who was age eight for Woodstock really be much of Boomer?

What doesn’t work is trying to slavishly follow the path of the Boomers. I’ve seen too many 30-40 somethings saying things like “I want to be at position ‘X’ by the time I am age ‘Y’…”  Given the demographic constraints at the top — at least today — this approach has rarely led to satisfying work or life outcomes.

Quick post on other personality type approaches

As I noted in an earlier post, the logo-centric metaphor of Myers-Briggs is limiting; other approaches leverage graphical and color metaphors to good effect:

Enneagrams — A friend of mine turned me on to this approach.  I don’t understand the nuances — this site appears to be a good intro  — but three aspects struck me:

  1. Each Enneagram personality type has a coherent narrative.
  2. The confusing type-shifting possible in other tests is precluded.
  3. The visualization makes the type “enrichment” concepts — wings, triads, etc. — easier to understand and relate to.

True Colors — A straightforward approach that presents four basic personality types using a color metaphor.  The biggest advantages are the ease with which the test is administered and how quickly most team members relate to the color concept.  The True Colors organization site is here, a sample quiz is here.

Strength Deployment Inventory — SDI is based on a different psychological paradigm; it looks at motivation for oneself and one’s team (a good basic intro to SDI is here –a summary of some of the differences is here).  I like that:

  1. It identifies personal strengths and motivations, both when things are going well and when facing opposition and conflict.
  2. Both results are mapped on a grid, with a color metaphor to help interpret one’s positions on the grid.
  3. All team members’ results are mapped, so it is very easy to compare and discuss the interrelationships among the group.
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