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  • Jeff Eaker

Brian, the GenX CEO. Why Mom and Dad are Passing Us Over.

Updated: Aug 23




WE OPEN ON A CONFERENCE ROOM IN A TYPICAL OFFICE BUILDING. THE COMPANY’S SENIOR LEADERSHIP IS FILING INTO THE ROOM TO GO OVER THE QUARTERLY REPORT.


Greg: Where’s Brian? We can’t start without Brian.


Teddy: He said he’d be here after band practice.


Beth: They’re usually done by 2:00 so he should be here any…


AT THAT MOMENT BRIAN SAUNTERS INTO THE ROOM AND PLAYFULLY SERENADES BETH AND GREG.


Brian: Beth I hear you calling. But I can’t come home right now. These quarterly reports are boring. And Greg really brings me down.


Greg: Nice. How was band practice, asshole?


Brian: Allen’s new drum kit is fucking rad. It’s like having Neil Pert behind you.


Greg: Modern day warrior.


Brian: Mean, mean stride.


Beth: Guys, I think we have a hard stop at 3:30.


Brian: Love the hard stop. Whoever came up with the phrase hard stop should be given an award or accommodation. So much better than saying I have to split at 3:30. You start talking about having to split at 3:30 and people get all up in your biz, you know?

“What’s going on at 3:30?” “Where you headed?” “Why are you wearing a Chewbacca mask?” But you say you have a hard stop and no one questions it.


Greg: I think you’re gonna enjoy this, Brian. Let me show you the numbers.


GREG OPENS UP HIS LAPTOP AND BEGINS HIS POWERPOINT PRESENTATION.


Brian: I thought we were on a PowerPoint break. Didn’t we declare a moratorium?


Teddy: We did. Everyone just started using Keynote instead.


Brian: Fucking traitors. Bunch of squares.


Greg: If you want, I can print out my Excel doc.


Brian: Jesus Christ, Greg. Why do you have to be so fucking Greg?


Beth: For the sake of the hard stop can we please go through the numbers?


Brian: Beth, you are the heart and soul of this organization. Don’t ever change.


Greg: You see that first chart? The one with the arrow going straight up. That’s our productivity.


Brian: Is it supposed to go straight up like that?


Greg: Well, if you look at the chart on slide 7, you’ll see another one just like it.


Brian: Are those sales?


Greg: Yep. 33,000 units. But it gets better on slide 9.


Brian: Holy shit, why are we at the top of that list?


Teddy: Because that’s our category. Those are our competitors. And as of about 30 minutes ago, we’re now number one.


Brian: Number one what?


Teddy: We’re the industry leader now. We’re on top. We’re the big dog.


Beth: It all worked, Brian. The new sales strategy. The operational changes. The advertising campaign you greenlighted


Brian: I told you guys “Baby Corn Farmer” was great. You guys were all, “Uh, I don’t know… let’s do testing… blah blah blah.”


Beth: Well, you were right. People love “Baby Corn Farmer”.


Teddy: Did you guys hear that they’re making a “Baby Corn Farmer” Halloween costume?


Greg: Brian, we did it. We won.


BIG SMILES BREAK OUT ON EVERYONE’S FACES. TEDDY AND BETH HIGH-FIVE EACH OTHER. GREG IS VOGUING. BRIAN, HOWEVER, HAS A LOOK OF CONFUSION ON HIS FACE. THE FRIVOLITY FIZZLES OUT AS THE OTHERS BEGIN TO NOTICE BRIAN STARING OFF INTO SPACE.


Beth: Hey Brian, are you still with us?


Brian: Yeah. I’m here.


Greg: I think he’s just now realizing how much money he’s going to make.


Teddy: How much money we’re all going to make.


GREG AND TEDDY HIGH-FIVE EACH OTHER AGAIN.


Brian: Fuck.


Beth: Is everything alright Brian?


Brian: Yeah. It’s great. This… is… awesome.


Greg: Okay, I think we should do a big meeting. People out there are gonna freak when they see this.


Teddy: Let’s do it offsite!


Greg: Yeah! We’ll make the whole thing into a big party. We’ll get a band. Hell, Brian’s band could play! Whatta ya think, Brian?


Brian: Um … no.


Greg: Cool. No problem. We’ll get a different band. Or we could get a DJ? People love DJs.


BRIAN IS SHAKING HIS HEAD BACK AND FORTH, MOUTHING THE WORD “NO” OVER AND OVER AGAIN. EXASPERATED, HE LEANS BACK IN HIS CHAIR, STARES UP AT THE CEILING AND CONTINUES MOUTHING “NO” OVER AND OVER AGAIN


Teddy: Brian, we’ll do it however you want.


Brian: This is bullshit.


Beth: Totally. Fucking DJ? What the fuck, Greg? We’re not throwing a bar mitzvah.


Brian: It’s not the DJ or the band or the fucking party. This whole fucking thing is total bullshit.


Greg: Brian, we ran those numbers a zillion times. Those aren’t projections, man. That’s all cash in hand.


Brian: Guys, why the fuck did we start this company?


EVERYONE LOOKS AT EACH OTHER. NO ONE HAS AN ANSWER.


Brian: We started this company because we didn’t want to work for all those corporate assholes. We started this company so we could all hang out together and do our thing. We started this company so that we could do our jobs without getting hassled by all the crap that got in the way of us getting our shit done and still having a life. And now it’s all about productivity and go-to-market strategies and shitty PowerPoint presentations and being number fucking one?


Teddy: Brian, we met our goals.


Brian: Goals?! Are you fucking kidding me? My goal was to open up for the Meat Puppets someday. Greg, your goal was to master a frontside 50/50. Teddy, I don’t think you ever had a goal but I know you were really into mountain biking. Beth, you wanted to start a co-op. Do you guys realize what we’re going to need to do to maintain those fucking arrows?


Greg: Work really hard?


Brian: Jesus, Greg. Don’t you work hard enough already? Every morning you’re here before I get in and every night you’re here after I leave.


Greg: Sorry for busting my ass, man. I’ll try to slack off some for you.


Brian: Greg. You’re on your third marriage and you just did your second stint in rehab. Slacking off might be a good thing for you.


Beth: Brian, I think you’re overreacting.


Brian: Overreacting? Beth, when was the last time Cheap Trixie played a show?


Beth: The band is on hiatus.


Brian: You guys were the premier all female Cheap Trick tribute band. You shouldn’t be on hiatus. You should be on a fucking stage belting out “Surrender”. The Ferndale Press said, “When Beth Kutnik cries out, I want you to want me, she succeeds in both a literal and metaphorical sense.” But every night, you’re right here at work. Burning the midnight oil with go-getter Greg. Don’t you miss it?


BETH DOESN’T ANSWER. SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO. WE CAN SEE IT IN HER EYES.


Brian: Teddy, how long have we known each other?


Teddy: Sixth grade.


Brian: You saved my ass how many times over the years?


Teddy: Too many to count man.


Brian: And now that we’re NUMBER ONE, what do you think your day-to-day is gonna be like as director of sales?


Teddy: I don’t know, Brian. I guess it’ll be a little hectic for a while.


Brian: Teddy, you’re gonna be on the road three-weeks out of every month. When are you gonna see your kid? How’s that gonna work out with Megan? Hey Greg, why don’t you just give Teddy your lawyer’s number right now? Maybe you guys can bundle your next divorces and get a discount.


Greg: This is insane! Any CEO would be doing cartwheels over these numbers right now. What the fuck, man?!


Brian: Yeah. You’re right, Greg. Any CEO would do cartwheels over these numbers. They’d run home to their big house with two tennis courts and a Tesla in every bathroom and they’d roll their big fat asses around on their money pile just for fun. And you know what they’d do with your numbers? They’d find some multi-national corporate acquisition assholes and turn your PowerPoint into a fucking four-color tri-fold buy-out brochure. Before you know it, we’d all be owned by an off-shore private equity firm. How’s that sound, Greg? We can infuse the whole place with a corporate culture that we'll say is our “secret-sauce” for success. We’ll do team building exercises. We’ll have positivity officers. We’ll talk about what a “family” we are. And then, if those arrows start to point in the other direction we’ll start making “difficult decisions” about that family. We’ll trim the fat. Restructure to better position ourselves for success in the current economic climate. You’ll last six-months Greg. Then they’ll lay you off and replace you with someone younger and cheaper. Sound good to you? Doesn’t sound very good to me. Sounds like a shit deal to me. Fuck that. I’m not doing that to myself. And I’m not doing that to you or anyone else. I’ll go back to my old job. I don’t fucking care.


Beth: You worked at Blockbuster, Brian. They don’t exist anymore.


Brian: Good. My job will be a lot easier.


Teddy: Actually, I think there’s one still left. It’s in Alaska.


Greg: Brian, this doesn’t make any sense, man. I thought we were all gonna celebrate.


Brian: You guys celebrate. Go be number one if you want. Fuck this. I’m out of here.


Beth: Brian, where are you going?!


FROM DOWN THE HALL WE HEAR BRIAN SHOUT


Brian: Alaska!


I kind of see Bill Hader in the role of Brian. I’m not married to him or anything and the script certainly doesn’t depend on him but I’d like to find someone who’s inherently likable enough to get away with the snarky dialogue and not come off as a complete idiot for wanting to walk away from a successful business.


Luckily, there are a lot of Bill Hader types walking around out there. You just have to find someone born between 1965 – 1980.


GenX’ers are said to possess the following traits. We are rebellious. We value individualism and we are inherently skeptical of any sort of entrenched bureaucracy, process or unnecessarily complex organizational structure. We are thought to resent meetings and group work and given our willingness to change jobs, are perceived to be less loyal to employers. All of which is generational stereotyping and some weird new form of ageism.


I didn’t write all that. It came from some sort of reputable source on the internet but I wouldn’t argue with it much. I wrote the last line about generational stereotyping being some weird new form of ageism. That’s my contribution.


We are rebellious. MTV taught us that.


“We’re Not Gonna Take It”.


We were raised by Twisted Sister and Kurt Loder. And there just aren’t a lot of great songs out there about conformity and going along to get along.


We love thinking of ourselves as individuals. We like to stand out but without trying too hard. And sure, I might be one of only seven Gen Xers who never grew a goatee, never pierced anything on purpose and thankfully never got a tribal armband tattoo, but those things were all expressions of individuality that my generation put a lot of thought and personalization into. Nobody wanted to be a number. Except this girl that one of my first partners dated named Seven. She literally wanted to be a number.


I also think our skepticism is valid. We got promised a lot of things. Dad was supposed to pick us up at the skating rink but he got held up at the office and we had to walk home. Mom was gonna take us to Six Flags but things blew up at work and she made us take a raincheck. We were told if we went to college, we’d get good paying jobs at companies where we could build a career. Kurt Cobain was going to grow old with us and be our John Lennon. But it just didn’t go down like that.


The dot coms fucked us over with equity stakes that went up in smoke. The entire housing market crashed. And all those companies that needed college graduates to come build their careers at, kept laying us off every time the stock dropped half a percentage point.


So we did what we had to do. We jumped around. We tried new things. Some of us went out on our own.


Our generation’s rally cry is, “Fuck it. I’ll just do it myself.”


And I have a feeling that it all really pisses off Baby Boomers.


Baby Boomers like working together. It makes them feel like they’re at Woodstock. They like teamwork and collaboration. They like toeing the company line. Of course, they’re at the front of the company line where the toeing is a bit easier and much more financially rewarding, but never-the-less they support company line toeing whenever possible.


Baby Boomers work like crazy and it’s a tremendous part of their identity. GenX is not afraid of hard work. We all had paper routes, mowed lawns, washed cars, installed car stereos—anything for a buck.


In 7th grade my friend Brad started buying candy in bulk at Sam’s Club. Every morning we’d all meet up in the parking lot and he’d give us our bags for the day. We’d be sold out by 3rd period. We were enterprising our asses off until the principal shut us down.


So we're not afraid of hard work. We believe in hard work. We believe in doing a good job.


But after the job is done, we want to go home and hang out with our friends and be left the fuck alone.


We don’t want to play on the company softball team. We don’t want to go out for drinks with our group. We don’t want to hear positivity quotes every morning. It’s not that we’re assholes or anti-social. It’s just that we don’t want to be defined by our jobs. We want to be defined by our interests. We want to be defined by all of the things that make us unique. We want to use our jobs to enhance our lives not take them over.


On the other hand, Millennials want leadership roles now. They want them after two or three years on the job. 82% of Millennials in the workforce today say they’re ready for management roles. While Gen X rolls their eyes as they think about their long and arduous journey to middle management, Baby Boomers eat that Millennial drive shit up all day long.


Which is why Gen Xers are the most overlooked for promotion and have been the slowest to advance of any generation currently in the workforce. According to research, Gen X on average had only 1.2 promotions in the past 5 years compared to 1.6 for Millennials and 1.4 for Baby Boomers.


Also, in the past five years, nearly seven in 10 Gen Xers in leadership roles have either been awarded a promotion only once or have not been promoted at all. In contrast, 52% of Millennials and 58% of Baby Boomers have received two or more promotions within the same time frame.


Here’s some more fun data. Baby Boomers are staying in the workforce longer than any previous generation. More than half of Baby Boomers are delaying retirement until 70 or later.


They can’t walk away. Why would they? The money is too good and their entire identities are wrapped up in their jobs. They all want to die at their desks. It’s noble. And perhaps if I had the career they had I’d want to die at my desk too. But I didn’t and I’m just not wired like that. I want to die with a Stratocaster in my hand. I want to die on my skateboard. I want to die like Bodhi in Point Break. I don’t want to croak at the office. It would be embarrassing.


But it all adds up to us getting fucked over once again. We’re being passed over. We have bad attitudes and bad timing.


Millennials, on the other hand, are team-playing go-getters. They want the world and they want it now. And every Baby Boomer CEO out there is finding the best ones to line up behind them, be their number twos and wait it out for another five to 7 years while they pad the nest and then hand them the reigns to the corporate chariot.


Gen X gets the shaft.


What I struggle with is, you’re our fucking parents. You’re our rich aunts and uncles. You’re our older brothers and sisters who we fucking idolized and you’re screwing us over. We wanted to be just like you. But slightly different. We loved you because you gave us such great music to jump off of. You turned us onto Led Zeppelin and let us check out your ELO albums. And now all these years later you’re passing us over so you can stay as long as you want? It doesn’t seem fair.


We’re not supposed to take it personally. You say it’s just what’s best for the business. And by that you mean, you’re gonna hang onto it until it kills you and then it’s all getting handed over to our baby cousins in the will.


I get it. You love us but you think we’re just a bunch of dozy goofballs who can’t handle real life and making the hard decisions. We’re all a bunch of Chris Farleys and Adam Sandlers. Maybe you’re forgetting that in act three of all those movies they always somehow turn things around and succeed by combining your way of doing things with their way of doing things.


Fuck it. Maybe I’ll go work at Blockbuster in Alaska.


Don’t forget to be kind and always rewind.




Thanks for reading. I'll see you again real soon.




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