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Millennials Hate Their Label... So Did Gen X

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Millennials hate their label. Welcome to the club, because so did Gen X!

Millennials were first called Gen Y back when they were just kids born in the early 1980s. Then 2000 happened—we partied like it was 1999, the 20th Century became the 21st Century, and overnight the young adults entering the workforce stopped being Gen Y and became known as Millennials. As marketers tried to identify this generation, so they could better sell products to them, it became clear that this group did not want to be identified as a homogenous package to which you could mass market.

The Millennials were right. There are a lot of differences within any generation, so labeling them is always an exercise in assigning labels in broad terms. Of course, all generations have the shared experience of being brought up during the same era, which causes certain, unavoidable similarities. So, despite their efforts not to be stereotyped, there are stereotypes that apply.

The fact that Millennials universally bristle at being called Millennials and reject any traits assigned to them is, in and of itself, a character trait.

Frankly, Gen X felt the same way, which is why they were termed “Gen X,” as in unknowable. This is the same use of “X” that is seen in innumerable pop culture references, especially TV series, such as the “X-Factor” and “X-Files.”

Side note: the “X-Files” was so popular in the mid-1990s, that a series of companion guides were published, which sold very well. The first official companion guide—written in 1995 by my future ex-husband Brian Lowry—was titled, “The Truth Is Out There.” The implication of the series being that the truth was unknowable.


Excerpted from Dr. Joanna Massey’s upcoming book “Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace."

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