THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want
THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want - Part 3 - Millennials

THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want - part 2 - Gen X

Owl in flight

Welcome back to our motivational analysis of the Generation Gap. In the previous article (1 of 4) we covered Baby Boomers. Today, we’re looking at Generation X.

Generation X: ‘65 – ‘79


The first trait identified by the study as belonging to Gen X is independence. This is an almost one-for-one correlation with the Spirit motivator. The Spirit motivator wants to be independent, and have autonomy and freedom. Of course, freelance, self-employed, or entrepreneurial work is therefore very attractive to those with this motivator. This doesn’t mean they have to work for themselves, however, only that once they have been set priorities, they like to achieve objectives in their own way, without micromanagement. So, whereas Boomers, on the whole, like hierarchy and clear structures, Generation X workers may find too much hierarchy suffocating, especially if it impinges on their independence and freedom. With freedom and independence often comes innovation (for when we’re liberated mentally we can see things from a different perspective), and Generation X workers are found to be highly creative. This clearly correlates with the Creator motivator, a motivator which is all about creativity, originality, and bring new things into the world. Both Creator and Spirit are both in the Growth cluster of motivators, which reflects a very different overall focus than that of the Boomer. Whereas the Boomers are about Achievement and work, Generation X trend more towards self-development, autonomy, and critically: having their name on the final product (which is part of the Creator’s desire to see their vision realised and manifested). If I were a psychologist, which I’m not, I might be asking some curious questions about whether there are correlations between the Boomer generation’s extremely work-focused outlook and Generation X’s independence.

The last trait identified for Generation X was strong communication skills. This could correlate to a number of different motivators, but ultimately I think is more about the clear sense of self-possession that comes from having a strong Spirit motivator. Those who are strongly motivated to be independent often have to learn very quickly how to set boundaries, how to clarify their priorities and parameters, and being able to make new contacts in absence of a more traditional support network (such as a hierarchical business structure).


In exchange for independence, creativity, and strong communication skills, Generation X—according to the data—desire a trustworthy employer. Note, this is slightly different from loyalty. Whereas Boomers (overall) desire an employer who remains loyal to them, and likely a long-term employment, Generation X want to know that their employer is transparent and honest. This is more aligned to the Friend motivator than the Defender, in my view. The Friend represents our desire for belonging, to be part of a group. When we’re with friends, particularly long-term friends, we know we can relax because we trust them, and they have our best interests at heart. Boomers put their faith in the corporate structure or system, but as Generation X are more individualistic by nature, they want to know the people around them are right, and their hearts are in the right place.

Once this trust is established, Generation X like to put their creativity to good use, with plenty of opportunities to problem solve. This is another key aspect of the Creator motivator. In their eyes, problems are just another way to create new things: shiny solutions, clever work-arounds, and elegant fixes. But of course, if they are going to have creative license to solve these problems, they need autonomy. Therefore, overly rigid reporting systems or managerial intervention is going to swiftly demotivate Generation X.

Lastly, perhaps again because Generation X has a more individualistic approach on the whole, they like to work with competent colleagues.

So, we’ve covered Generation X. In the next article, we’ll be looking at much-maligned Millennials. As we shall see, their motivational trends look very different. Stay tuned for more information on closing the generation gap!

Here is a reminder of that fantastic infographic created by Antonio Grasso.

Generations 1122 blog for it_ linda



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