News: A 'Clash of Generations:' Fact or Fiction?

Generation X has been stereotyped by the media as a generation of unmotivated slackers. Scott Wert says he wants to change that — at least in the workplace.

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Generation X has been stereotyped by the media as a generation of unmotivated slackers. Scott Wert says he wants to change that — at least in the workplace.

Wert is teaching a class, which he claims will help bridge the gap between Generation Xers and baby boomers in the workplace that clash because of differences in work ethics, he said.

Even though a University of Cincinnati expert on family and workplace issues says there is no clash between generations in the workplace and that acting like there is would be an attempt to generate media attention, Wert says he's just trying to help solve an important problem.

"Generation X is something I define as people who are born between 1961 and 1981," he said. "I see them as lacking work ethics or at least having different attitudes about the workplace than older generations."

Wert's class, which has more than 10 students enrolled so far, is a part of the adult education program at Sycamore Community Schools. It will focus on teaching business etiquette for Generation X and helping older generations to understand what makes that generation "tick."

Wert, a Generation X specialist at At Ease Inc., a company specializing in workplace behavior, said that Generation Xers need to learn how to take a "back seat" in the workplace and learn to take direction from authority.

"Gen Xers have a lot of ambition, which is a good quality, but sometimes in the workplace too much can be bad," he said.

Wert said this attitude could be attributed to a bad transition from college to a professional job.

"I think they need help going from being an independent consumer to being an employee and learning what is expected from that position," Wert said. "The class is also about work relationships, dressing for work and simple business etiquette."

His class is an attempt to teach Generation X about the attitudes that are expected as a new hire.

"The Baby Boomers are now in top-level positions at companies and Generation Xers are at the entry-level positions," he said. "It is important for the environment of the company that these two generations can see eye-to-eye and understand where the other is coming from."

But David Maume, associate professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati and director of the Kunz Center for Study of Work and Family, said that a class like Wert's has no relevance.

Generations, he said, are not clashing in the workplace.

"Generation X is called the slacker generation, but in reality, they are harder-working and more family oriented than generations before them," Maume said. "I really don't see this clash of generations and unless you can show me something based in research, I don't agree."

It is no surprise, Maume said, that two generations might see the world differently.

Baby Boomers had parents with lifelong careers, but for Generation X's parents, lifelong careers were becoming increasingly scarce, Maume said.

"Of course an idea of helping younger people understand professional employment is not invalid because older people don't know about younger people," he said. "But any discussion about the clash of generations is probably a reach and is an attempt to generate media attention."

Wert does not think so and said his personal experience has proven to him there is a need for this type of class.

"The scary thing is that I was a typical Gen Xer at one time," he said. "I realized that there was a lot I didn't know about work ethic and just how to be in work relationships."

Wert said he is an example of a reformed Generation Xer and believes there is hope for the "slacker generation."

"I don't think that one generation is better than another and I certainly know that Generation X gets a bad rap," he said. "But I think there is a need to fill in the generation gap happening at so many companies." ©

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