“The only thing [McCain] is going to let [Palin] do in the White House is teach him how to use the Internet.”
- A comment on McCain’s nomination of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate
A generational shift in corporate leadership positions is one reason why workplace change is accelerating. The wartime generation (McCain’s cohort) along with the older Baby Boomers have generally retired or stepped away from the day-to-day management of large numbers of employees.
Meanwhile, younger Baby Boomers and older members of Generation X have taken over. They understand the Internet, a range of business software applications, the power of mobile computing, and the need to both collaborate and, at times, separate oneself from the office in order to think through issues clearly. Many have developed a love affair with Blackberries and similar devices that allow more mobility.
Today, I believe that there is much less of a generation gap in the workforce than 10 years ago, especially when it comes to technology, and despite what some other workplace writers say.
Here’s an example (supplied on the condition that the company not be publicly named): In a specific division, almost all employees were offered the chance to become mobile, and trusted to work when and where they needed. Or, they could retain the status quo – a private office or workstation depending upon their job. The majority chose mobility.
But what’s interesting is that 1/3 were Generation Y; 1/3 Generation X; and 1/3 Baby Boomers, and this is roughly the age breakdown of that company.
Those who resisted losing an office tended to be workers of any generation who had only recently been promoted to a position with a private office. Those who had their own office for a long time seemed to prefer the idea of working from home occasionally, flexible hours, and being able to sit “where the action was” within the company.
And technology is just one area where the workplace has changed. Management hierarchies have also tended to flatten and company leadership at middle levels is often more fluid, with people switching roles from time to time. Higher productivity in knowledge-based work typically requires employees to feel inspired – a difference from more service-oriented work in which hiring more people or insisting on longer hours would increase output.
Each workplaces is, of course, different. All of this may (or may not) be irrelevant at the White House.
Do you perceive a distinct generation gap where you work? Or is the gap along different lines?