Labeling & Living on the Generational Cusp

The Intergenerational Debate has been a popular topic lately.  As Baby Boomers begin looking to retirement, it is more important than ever for managers, human resource professionals, and companies, regardless of their size or volume to understand  working, recruiting, and retaining the current and future workforce. We know (or we should) that Millennials are the largest new and upcoming workforce demographic next to the aging Baby Boomer population.  Gen X on the other hand, is much smaller mainly due to the popularity and widespread use of birth control, specifically “the pill” in the 1960′s, but what about those that fall squarely in the middle?  You know, on the cusp?

Cuspers and Being Born on the Cusp

Cuspers” is a term to define those that fall between generations.  Cuspers,, regardless of where they fall are most commonly between Baby Boomers and Gen X or Gen X and Millennials, are those that exhibit traits of both the generations in which they fall in between.

  • Baby Boomer to Gen X Cusper. Those that are born between born roughly 1954-1965.  Notable cuspers include Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Sarah Palin.  They are commonly referred to as Generation Jones.
  • Gen X to Millennial Cusper. Born between 1978-1988.  They are commonly referred to as the MTV Generation, Gen XY, or Generation Doom (because of the video game not XY’s pessimistic outlook).  Notable celebrities that fall into this cusper category include Brittany Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

The Creation of Generation Labels

The idea and use of creating  generation labels and categorizing those around us has been a characteristic of human beings since the beginning of time.   Fields of study like Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology were created based on our human desire and need to understand others as well as ourselves.  I understand and enjoy this process especially since my educational background is Anthropology and Business.  Learning about your market demographic as well as your competitors is advertising and business 101.  It’s also an important part of being a successful and effective Human Resource leader.

Instead of labeling one another, I encourage a different and unorthodox approach: human interaction, engagement, and good old fashioned conversations with your employees, friends, customers, peers, or whomever.  Of course my impressions could be due to the fact that I’m a Gen XY and Cusper myself.  At 32 years old, I’m essentially an in-between who is often mislabeled and misunderstood.  Too old to be a Millennial, but too young to be an Xer, I barely remember iconic events like the Challenger Disaster. Cuspers like myself feel extremely comfortable being uncomfortable.  Being in-between and feeling like an outsider to your own generation label among other things is normal.

What are your thoughts on generation labels?  Is it a necessary evil or a way to make us feel special, different, or just plain uncomfortable?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Michael Redisch says

    I think this is an excellent article. Too often people are judged based on stereotypes which affect our perception of the actual person we are engaging with. This is especially true for managers who can cop out with Millennials by saying they are “lazy, entitled” without actually giving the individual a chance or demonstrating good leadership. Great post and I look forward to seeing more, keep up the good work!

  2. Scott Span, MSOD says

    Good points. As an OD Consultant (and a GenY/Millennial cusper) who works in the areas of cross generational communication and engagement, and delivers diversity training – my view on labels is that they always hold some truth and tend to bring like individuals together, however know when to check them!More on my blog:

  3. FyreChylde says

    Great article! While only 4 years old than the author, I’m firmly in Gen X. My childhood was in the 80’s and my teen years were in the 90’s.

    I’m a history nut, so I have great respect for the Boomers and before. Boomers took on the “establishment” so that myself, a female, and my friends of color could have more and better choices. I was very close to my grandfather, a member of The Greatest Generation, who fought in WWII.

    However, I have more in common with Cuspers and Gen Y-ers. I may be old enough to remember life before cell phones and computers in almost every home, but I’ve taken to them as easily as my younger friends. I love that the internet offer so many opportunities and am active in social media.

    All that said, I really appreciate what the author had to say about not getting too invested in these labels. I’ve met Boomers who know more about computers than I and Gen Y-ers who prefer to go “old school” and spend most of their time outdoors. Boomers, Gen Y, etc., may be handy quick-reference terms, but we need always be vigilant about assuming them as hard-and-fast truths. In all areas of my life–business, personal, in my community–I’ve been surprised more often than not.

    • Kathleen Mangiafico says

      I think labels are unavoidable because there’s always at least 2% of truth…”good or bad”…to whatever the stigma is. My motto is to leverage what is “good” and utilize it for the sake of relationship! Great article…great discussions!



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