Physicians Practice Pearls: Talkin’ ’Bout My Gen X-eration

April 1, 2007

Younger physicians aren’t “lazy,” as many old-schoolers believe. But they do have different priorities.


I heard it again just the other day: a physician complaining about the “lazy” new doctor he had hired to work in his practice. “Goodness gracious,” he said. “Who does he think he is? This physician actually wants to go home at 5 p.m.!”

As you may have guessed, the new physician referenced above is young - a member of “Generation X,” those of us between age 30 and 45. A Gen X-er myself, I can relate to the new guy. It’s not lazy to want to leave the office at 5 o’clock; it’s part of our generational mindset. Sure, different people have different priorities, but they don’t always have to be in conflict with running a busy practice.

So what does this mean for you? Can you work with your younger peers and their desire for a higher “quality of life”?

Yes you can. Before you throw up your hands, understand the general characteristics of Gen X-ers:

They work to live; not the other way around. Quality of life is a priority for Gen-X physicians. Although their older peers often interpret this attitude as laziness, Gen X-ers are actually very ambitious in their professional lives. They are, however, equally ambitious about pursuing satisfying personal lives away from the office.

They work to have a life outside of work. Gen X-ers don’t want to be dictating patient notes at 8 p.m.; they want to be tucking their kids into bed.

They value relationships. Gen X-ers seek out relationships. Being loyal to their employer is not enough. They want to know how they can contribute to the organization in their own unique ways, and they will ask for what may seem to you like constant feedback about their performance.

They’re skeptical of institutions and rules. Gen X-ers value individuality. They are skeptical of authority figures and the rules those figures lay down. Your fancy title won’t make them respect you; you’ll have to earn their respect by building relationships with these colleagues. They flourish under mentors, but they don’t respond as well to managers.

Skepticism also makes Gen X-ers wary of consenting to long-term professional arrangements. Take the time to work with them on commitments such as practice partnerships. It may be a lengthy process to accommodate their concerns and desires, but your willingness to respect their needs will foster a relationship between you - and earn their respect.

They embrace change. Growing up in the Information Age, and, for many of this generation, having been surrounded by a tremendous amount of racial, gender, and ethnic diversity, Gen X-ers are more accustomed to dealing with differing viewpoints and new ideas. In general, they dislike routine and desire change.

Gen X-ers needn’t be a thorn in your side. Know who they are, and embrace them for what they can bring to your practice.

Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA, CPC, is a professional speaker and consultant specializing in practice management. Elizabeth is a fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a certified professional coder. She can be reached at elizabeth@elizabethwoodcock.com or via editor@physicianspractice.com. Learn more about Elizabeth at www.elizabethwoodcock.com.

This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Physicians Practice.