Have you ever sat at “the kids table” for holiday meals with your extended family? If you did, you then will certainly remember what it was like when you finally “graduated” to the “grown ups” table? Keep this in mind as I share with you my thoughts in this blog posting.
As I found myself moving farther up the ladder, you would think that leading would be the skill that I would be measured on most often, but in “Executive Land”, it can be difficult to find that right mix of delivery, of owning things—not only from a tactical standpoint but from a strategic one as well. I think many of my Gen X counterparts struggle with that as well, because we have Baby Boomer bosses, who do not believe we should be here yet.
They still see you as a kid, and say, “Okay, kid, go work on this.” They don’t welcome us at the strategy table yet because they don’t believe our “youthful” career trajectory allows us to be at the table to share in the strategic thought generation. That’s probably one of the biggest mistakes the Baby Boomer leaders make is thinking that only their generation has any strategic thinking to add at the table.
That’s a very candid statement about what I’ve experienced in “Executive Land.” You almost have to become a different person to be an executive. For some Gen Xers, that process doesn’t really fit them. It’s hard to turn off who you are each day, or not be the person who you have been up this point in life just for the sake of making a certain amount of money or for the sake of having a certain title.
Unfortunately, that’s going to come back to bite a lot of them in the pants. My generation of colleagues realizes the fact that we’re worth a lot more than we’re getting credit for, and that’s why we’re stuck in the middle. We’re stuck between the two generations and trying to prove ourselves to both. Trying to prove that we can and should be where we are—sadly it seems to a bunch of people who could care less that we’re there.
How do you remain visible in a place where many would rather stick you somewhere so that you’ll be invisible? There much value Gen Xers could add, more than we can do, but many of us are not getting a chance to make those contributions. Those valid feelings of being undervalued, underestimated, and marginalized contribute to the purported “Generation X malaise” and to the sad realization that many of us are indeed stuck in the middle.