Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Gen X Reps Revisited

My post yesterday regarding the differences between sales reps of the boomer generation vs. those of the Gen X cohort (see "Generation X Pharma Reps") sparked a few comments from readers of this blog. An anonymous commenter, who I suspect is an offended Gen X'er, doesn't buy any of it:
I think your memory is playing tricks on you, old timer. Remember the '80s and all that "greed is good" crap? Be they "baby boomers" or GenX'rs drug reps are pretty much the lowest of the low. End of story. -- Anon
Well Anon, you snot-nosed whippersnapper, greed is NOT necessarily all bad. If you were able to focus your computer-game addled, data-challenged brain on the survey data I presented, you would have seen that, for boomers, being well off was only slightly more important than participating in the community and slightly less important than keeping up with politics. On the other hand, Gen X'ers put greed way above all other motivational factors. In other words Anon, dude, you just don't have the balance that makes the spoils of greed worth having.

Even Michael Milken -- "junk bond king" and the great 80's icon of greed -- and Bill Gates -- the richest man in the world -- both exhibit this balance. Milken established a foundation to underwrite a search for the cure of prostate cancer and is a founder an educational services company. Gates established the Gates Foundation to help fight disease in poor areas of the world.

My friend and colleague Jane Chin (Gen X'er and member of the
PHARMA-MKTING online discussion group) contends that Gen X'ers took their cue from boomer managers:
I don't think Reidy is an apt characterization of Generation-X. While I - like Reidy - use "Dude" in select daily vernacular, I should point out that both I and Reidy live in Southern California where Dudes are fixtures to beach communities as Googlers are to internet communities.

As a member of Generation-X, I've noticed the stratification within Generation-X, which I have not seen addressed anywhere. The younger Generation-X (ones born in late 70s and in the 80s) were born into cultures of corporate cynicism. The older Generation-X (late 60s early 70s) like me grew up believing in employer loyalty and then evolved to see the errors of our ways in face of glorified lean operations, rainbow belts in six sigmas, and business process reengineering that usually means laying people off.

Forget the Way of Employee Empowerment, what Generation-X and Generation-Y have seen and continue to see is the Way of Dilbert and management doublespeak. We have grown up seeing management preach one thing and practice another: at the helm of drug industry scandals are senior management serving as examples to Generations X and Y as how one would get ahead at the company. There are members of the Baby Boomer generation who don't question dubious actions of management because one should "toe the line." There are members of the Baby Boomer generation who through their actions have taught members of Generations X and Y that when your connections are powerful enough or concealments clever enough, one does not have to play by the rules.

This is not about greed abounding and compassion lacking across generation divides. This is simply about greed knowing no bounds and compassion being made irrelevant when your performance is solely judged on how many pills you have sold this week.


  1. Do you think it is possible that the difference in values may come from the age of the Gen X'er vs. the Boomer? A Boomer has had more experience, and thus more time to adjust what is of highest value to them, while Gen X'ers are newer to the market and thus easily pulled into the greedy environment? I don't know the answer to that, but I would be interested to see data that compares the Boomer generation at 25 years old to the Gen X'ers at 25. Had Michael Milken and Bill Gates done all of their foundation work by the end of their 20's?

  2. The data I presented represent what boomers and Gen X'ers were saying was important to them when they were freshmen in college -- about 19 years old. The author of the book suggests that these motivations stay with you throughout life -- at least that is how I read his analysis. Therefore, it doesn't matter at what stage of your life you do what you do -- your behavior stems from the values you formed early on in life. I am not sure I buy into that 100%. I am just expressing a personal opinion and using the survey data as an interesting piece that might solve the puzzle as to why sales effectiveness is not what it used to be.


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