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Generation Y
Generation X

Ban This Man: Greenspan Blames Young Americans For Workforce Woes

Former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan has said America’s young workforce pales in comparison to their Baby Boomer counterparts. He then suggested it would be better for America to hire skilled immigrants to counter the worrying trend.

Former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan has said America’s young workforce pales in comparison to their Baby Boomer counterparts. He then suggested it would be better for America to hire skilled immigrants to counter the worrying trend.

I’m suggesting that Mr. Greenspan better sit back down. He’s clearly off his rocker.

Greenspan said the U.S. is in the process of seeing the Baby Boomers, which he called “the most productive, highly skilled, educated part of our labor force”, retire.


Because it can easily be argued that Generation X and Y are the most educated, productive, and innovative generations considering the high number of college graduates and entrepreneurs belonging to those generations.

Greenspan’s attack on younger generations continued with this statement: “They (Boomers) are being replaced by groups of young workers who have regrettably scored rather poorly in international educational match-ups over the last two decades.”

Well who fault is that?! I don’t think this generation was born dumb, Mr. Greenspan. I’m fairly certain our education system has failed us–which tends to be populated by Boomer-aged educators, by the way.

Greenspan went on to say how the average income of U.S. households headed by 25-year-olds and younger had been declining in comparison to the average income of the Baby Boomer population.

No surprise there, either! More than 80% of Generation Y moves back home after college graduation. That’s certainly not due to a lack of productivity or initiative, Mr. Greenspan. You could buy a small country for what it costs to go to college. The insurmountable price tag for a higher education forces most students into unbelievable loads of debt at the ripe old age of 22.

Plus, teen unemployment has been at an all-time high in the U.S. for the past five years. Why? It’s partly due to the rotten economy and partly because employers would rather hire immigrants and retired workers instead of American teenagers. (No thanks to Mr. Greenspan and his crummy advice!)

American teens are blamed for having no work ethic, but they also haven’t had any work experience. To top it all off, Baby Boomer parents can certainly share some of the blame here. Generation Y is the most protected, supervised generation in history. Their parents have coddled them so much, they aren’t about to kick their 20-something babies out of the nest just yet.

Mr. Greenspan, your blatant age discrimination has done nothing but hurt America. How dare you suggest that we rely on an immigrant workforceto save our country!

We’re on the brink of the largest shift in human capital in history and most employers are unprepared. Indeed, we do need to be concerning ourselves with succession planning and leadership development and the future of work.

We need to make sure our education system does an adequate job of preparing our workforce.

We need to learn as much as possible about each generation, utilize the skills and knowledge that each generation brings to the table, and build collaborative, productive, multi-generational teams.

What we don’t need is someone like you doubting our potential. Mr. Greenspan, you are an embarrassment to America.

Want to see a team from Fox News debate Greenspan’s stupidity? Check this out: Blame Generation X for Employment Problems?

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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