Menu Close

Do You Work to Live or Live to Work?


Your answer to this provocative question may very well depend on whether you are a member of the Baby Boomer generation, the X generation or if you are a Millennial. Of course, each group has its individuals who go either way or somewhere along the continuum. But understanding whether you tend toward “working to live” or “living to work” can immediately provide insight for you personally, and to your behavior in the workplace.


Much has been written on the social, economic and political characteristics of each group. To be sure, understanding those things that shape a generation will help in managing people (staff and coworkers), building rapport with donors and crafting giving arguments in ways that best resonate with the reader.

The Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Baby Boomer grew up experiencing significant events including the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, walk on the moon, the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, drug experimentation, civil rights movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, Woodstock, the Cold War, raging inflation, gasoline shortages, Ronald Reagan and Live Aid. Generally speaking, this generation (that invented rock ‘n roll) questions authority and came of age experiencing tremendous technological advances that changed the way the country lived and worked.

Generation X (Born 1965-mid 1980s): Gen Xers are often called the MTV generation. They experienced the emergence of music videos, new wave music, electronic music, heavy metal, punk rock and hip hop. Perhaps as a result, Generation X embraces social diversity in race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation. They are less likely to idolize leaders and are more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions, including entrepreneurial risk-taking and celebration of individual effort.

Millennials (Born mid 1980s-late 1990s): Millennials have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes from previous generations as a response to the technological and economic implications of the Internet. Being wealthy is increasingly important to them while interest in political affairs declines. Developing a meaningful philosophy of life also is declining. Some employers are concerned that Millennials have too great expectations from the workplace. They will switch jobs frequently, holding many more jobs than Generation Xers due to their great expectations.


These descriptions, of course, do not do justice to ourselves or of those we know from these groups…but, these descriptions do give us insight into the degree to which people may put their heart and soul into their work.


I would argue that the work of advancement does require more heart and soul than many other professions. After all, we are appealing to the heart and in some cases the soul of our donors to support our organizational missions. And to be an authentic advocate for our missions, reciprocity is required… giving of ourselves to get a bit back from others.


Your takes:


1. Ask yourself, Do You Work to Live or Live to Work, and what does that mean to the effectiveness of your work.


2. Is working cross-generationally with donors successful for you and for your shop?


3. Are your front line advancement officers able to give a bit of themselves during their donor interactions?


For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of consulting services, please see Follow CRI on Twitter @copleyraff.