How to Identify Workplace Latchkey, Self-Reliant GenXers

By Maria Gamb

Generation X (born 1961–1981) is the first generation to experience working mothers as routine, not the exception. Latchkey kids had both parents still at work when they got home from school, and they had to amuse themselves until their parents returned home. They were self-reliant and self-directed, doing homework and chores without after-school supervision Monday through Friday. Daycare was created. Divorce rates remained high, spurring GenXers’ desire for family and a fierce commitment to work-life balance. Early GenXers lived through the Watergate scandal in 1972, while later Xers saw the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s and formed the belief that politicians and authority cannot be trusted.

Here’s a snapshot of the events and people who influenced Generation X:

  • Events shaping their world: The end of the Cold War, Watergate, Title IX, the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, grunge and hip-hop, the AIDS epidemic outbreak changes dating and marriage perceptions, and the rise of dual-income families and single-income families led by women.
  • Famous figures: Madonna, Mikhail Gorbachev, Grandmaster Flash, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots.
  • Emerging technology: Personal computers, cell phones, PDAs.
  • What they learned to value: Diversity, entrepreneurship, education, independence, self-reliance, skepticism and cynicism, pragmatism.
  • Prevailing attributes: Focus on results, ignore leadership, mistrust government, pampered by parents, unimpressed with authority, confident, competent, ethical, willing to take on responsibility, will put in extra time to get it done.
  • Work motto: “Work to live.” GenXers sacrifice balance occasionally but prefer to work to fund the life they desire.