As a mid-20s millennial, I've noticed something: People like to talk about us. The internet abounds with jokes at our expense (often well-earned) and articles exploring how to retain us, entertain us, or maybe just kick some sense into us.
We are, it seems, the exact opposite of some of our predecessors—the baby boomers.
Except we're not.
We're kind of similar, really. Both boomers and millennials have strong opinions and characteristics. The only problem? We're braced right up against one another in an epic generational war.
On one front, boomers are traditional, inflexible, hierarchical elitists who are technologically impaired. On the other, millennials are needy, sensitive, entitled punks who use way too many emojis.
But there's one generation that's been coasting the sidelines in all these arguments—and they are savvy, skeptical, self-reliant and armed with the skills to help ease the tension between the older and younger generations.
Born approximately 1961 to 1981, there are fewer Gen Xers (about 65 million) than boomers (77 million) and millennials (83 million). As such, they're kind of the ignored middle child of the generations.
Yet Gen Xers—mostly in their 40s and 50s now—are owning businesses, leading the workforce in management and mentoring their younger co-workers. It's a good place for them, because they have the uncanny ability to understand and relate to both the boomers and millennials.
1. They created the internet.
Boomers may not understand the internet, and millennials were raised on it. Gen Xers, on the other hand, remember life without computers, because they're the ones who developed the digital technology we rely on today.
Generation Xers were the first to walk around with the dinosaur fossils once called cellphones. They sent the first SMS messages. They were the first to invite technology-based programs into the workplace.
As a result, they can mellow the polarizing sides of the boomers and millennials, providing a delicate balance between treating technology like it's the spawn of the devil and changing the official office language to emoji. They offer patience to those who need an extra hand with technology, and they keep office use of new technology in check by asking critical questions necessary before embracing change.
2. They're dang independent.
Gen X was the first generation to see daycare, divorce and ample time home alone. Filled with "latchkey kids," Gen X featured sometimes unstable childhoods that created autonomy, and the generation now exhibits resourcefulness, independence and self-sufficiency. If they don't know how to do something, they'll meet the challenge head-on.
3. They're nurturing.
Unstable childhoods also helped make Gen Xers nurturing—primarily as parents, yet crossing into the workplace. Millennials were raised on participation ribbons. We crave affirmation (and sometimes a bit of hand-holding.) Gen X, by no means, caters to their younger counterparts. They do, however, take them by the hand in mentorship roles and teach them how to be just as savvy as themselves.
4. They understand both sides.
Gen X experienced the Vietnam War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, economic crises and more. The generation came of age during an age of change—as a result, holding a unique outlook on life. They understand the historical events that shaped the lifestyles of the boomers and the millennials. They can be empathetic toward both sides and provide the voice of reason as a mediator.
Whatever it takes to drive a business in the midst of a generational smackdown, Gen X has it in scores.
Written by Cassie Westrate, emoji-loving millennial and staff writer for Groups Today.