In researching my post about cubicles (see below), I came across a piece published by BusinessWeek titled Ten Reasons Gen Xers Are Unhappy at Work. It’s written by Tammy Erickson who is writing a book about the Gen X corporate experience and our “career options.” You see, she is “worried” about Generation X and corporations — more so about corporations than Xers because now they need us (!) to fill the leadership vacuum that is about to open up. But guess what? We’re not so keen on leading Corporate America. This is of course no surprise (especially to anyone who has read my book Slackonomics), given the current state of Corporate America, which has not exactly been the best place to work since Gen X began entering the workforce, as Erickson’s Top Ten Reasons indicate:
1. X’ers’ corporate careers got off to a slow start;
2. When you were teens, X’ers witnessed adults in your lives being laid off from large corporations;
3. Most corporate career paths “narrow” at the top;
4. Just your luck—the economy was slow when you entered the workforce …
I could go on, but let’s just say I cover 8 of her 10 reasons in my book Slackonomics. And since she is a “McKinsey-award winning” writer and author of “four Harvard Business Review articles,” Slackonomics is probably more fun to read. Just a guess.
Just as the heart of Generation X is turning 40 years old, guess what else just celebrated its 40th birthday? The office cubicle! Or as Douglas Coupland coined the term, “veal fattening pens.” The cubicle was designed by the late Robert Propst at the furniture design company Herman Miller, which launched it as the “Action Office” in July 1968.
Of course, the office cubicle has inspired an entire genre of humor, from Dilbert to Office Space.
But leave it to a Gen Xer to bring a contemporary design sensibility to the cubicle, as Fred Dust of IDEO did back in 2001. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, approached IDEO, a San Francisco-based design firm, to rethink the cubicle. The result sounds very Gen X and already a little dated! As the press release of the time states:
The result is a modular cubicle that allows each worker to select the components from a “kit of parts” and create a space based on his or her tastes and lifestyle. Practical considerations include modules for seats, computers, displays, and lights; more whimsical modules provide a hammock, an aquarium, and a hamster wheel.
Interestingly, Herman Miller just came out with a new line of “office” furniture that is designed for the home office — which is precisely where a lot of us are working these days, as I point out in my book Slackonomics.
Somehow I missed this, but a Boston Globe blog Brainiac had an item about Slackonomics last month. Joshua Glenn, who writes the blog, is a generational connoisseur and has a whole new scheme. Apparently I’m not Generation X but a PCer. He rightly points out that the original gen xers (or OGX) were older than the demographic that is now considered Generation X. What is a PCer?
We PCers were in our teens and 20s in the Eighties (1984-93; not to be confused with the ’80s); and in our 20s and 30s in the Nineties (1994-2003; not to be confused with the ’90s). Our immediate elders — the OGX — managed to squeak through the Seventies without being noticed by lifestyle journalists, management consultants, marketers, and pop demographers — because, according to the statistics, they were the tail end of the baby boom. This made OGXers feel neglected, and they preferred it that way; in fact, they built a negatively-charged generational identity around their non-Boomerness.
But PCers weren’t so lucky. Not only were we pigeonholed by the above-mentioned types at an impressionable age, we have been repeatedly lumped into a single, fabricated generation along with older and younger non-PCers.
He goes on to dissect a 1990 Time magazine essay that fails to distinguish between OGX and PCers:
Myth: PCers are “passive,” “apathetic,” and “indecisive,” according to Time. Fact: In the same essay, we read that 1990′s twentysomethings “feel the opposing tugs of making money and doing good works, but they refuse to get caught up in the passion of either one. They reject 70-hour workweeks as yuppie lunacy, just as they shirk from starting another social revolution.” Correct! I’ve said it before: Ambivalence — being pulled in two directions simultaneously — is not the same thing as apathy or even indecisiveness. The slacker is apathetic, the idler ambivalent. The slacker can’t be bothered to claw his way up the ladder of success, or overthrow the established order; the idler redefines success, and eschews lifestyle revolution for style-of-life revolution — which tends to happen off the radar.
Creative Destruction is not yet a household term like “laissez-faire” but it’s getting there — helped along today by the Freakonomics guys writing on their New York Times blog:
The turbulence of the U.S. economy has lots of people railing against capitalism itself, and with good reason: capitalism is inherently turbulent. That’s why the legendary economist Joseph Schumpeter called it “creative destruction.”
In my book Slackonomics — an obvious derivative of the Freakonomics title — I try to expand the term “creative destruction” beyond its strictly economic definition into a cultural realm. The subtitle of the book is “Generation X in the Age of Creative destruction,” and in the final chapter, I use graffiti and street art as a metaphor for creative destruction. But it’s more than just a metaphor, it IS creative destruction. The cultural milieu we create is very much a reflection of the economic era that we live in, from extreme sports to graffiti art to alternative comedy (i.e. a sardonic sense of humor as perfected by Banksy the graffiti artists, whose work is pictured above). Read the rest of this entry » »
I was recently asked to contribute to The Page 99 Test, which is a blog based on this quote: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” –Ford Madox Ford
But before saying yes, however, I thought I better check page 99 of Slackonomics just to be sure I was going to pass the test! I’m happy to say, not only is one of the more salient topics on page 99, I quote my friend and another Page 99 contributor, author Elizabeth Currid (whose work I blogged about here as well).
See for yourself: Slackonomics on Page 99