Identify how attitudes in the workplace have changed throughout the years? (Do not go back any longer than two decades. Consider many factors such as media, events, and generational gaps.) Does this change impact the organizational culture?
My apologies for the late post, substantial travel, predictably poor United Wifi, a 68-hour contiguous work day and 90+ hour work week left me with limited options. My week this week is a true testament to organizational culture, and also to generational gaps. First off it’s hard to work nearly three days straight with no sleep, but myself and as well as eight others on my teams did so as we worked through a critical defect. I flew back from California on a red-eye last night and called my 78-year-old dad from the car on my way home from the airport at 8 AM this morning. Of course, we discussed his week and my week and his comment to me was “Son, when you take the number of hours you work and divide into your salary you make minimum wage”. There is a story to be told here. 🙂
If I am going to identify or discuss how the workplace has changed throughout the years and only go back two decades, essentially looking at the period starting 1998 to current day 2018, in my opinion, there is one place to focus, and it’s the era of the millennial. At the risk of rewinding a little too far without a focus beyond the last two decades. I am going to look back three generations to the Baby Boomers (~ 1946-1964), the post-WWII generation, this provides a little more context for some of my thoughts as well as the ability for me to leverage some of my personal experiences. Following the Baby Boomers we have Generation X (1965-1979), the generation I hail from, then the Millennials (~ 1981 – 1997), the generation which comprises the majority of the workforce which I interact with and manage on a daily basis.
As a Gen Xer, I carried forward many of the traits of my Baby Boomer parents, my Dad was born in 1940, so he is technically part of the Silent Generation, but close enough for this discussion. My parents were dutiful and respectful, and they passed traits and philosophies like don’t question your elders, obedience, being on time, acceptance, work will never kill you, and most importantly the Calvinist belief of working hard and being thrifty. I also think it’s important, at least contextually that I grew up with negative motivation, nothing was ever good enough, could have always done more, worked a little harder, etc… fear was and still is a primary motivator.
As a Gen Xer living in a millennial world, it is easy to become disillusioned, while fear motivates me and I am comfortable with it, this is not the case for the millennial generation. I have learned recent years that millennials are very talented, but a purpose is super important. From my experience, the millennial posses traits which focus on the greater good, culture is critical, and they value purpose over profits. How we communicate with the millennial generation differs significantly from prior generations. Millennials are looking to develop close relationships and receive frequent feedback.
(Myers, 2018) I find this interesting because the need for teamwork and consensus to de-risk themselves, the need for constant feedback, etc… seems to be counter to the need for autonomy. The reality is millennials work well in teams, they organize and communicate well, they are comfortable with team success, and they can produce great outcomes when put in situations which make them feel comfortable. There is no doubt that emotional intelligence is critical when navigating and motivating a multigenerational workforce. (Njoroge, 2014)
While we can look at the impact of social media, world events, etc… as influencers of organizational culture I believe they pale in contrast to the cultural shifts which have been created by generational gaps, specifically the entrance of the millennial philosophies into the workforce. Let me explain, sites like Glassdoor are posted to and read by millennials, they have a significant impact on organizational culture, organizational policy, etc… but I have never posted to Glassdoor. While I am interested in politics and I have political views, my reactions to the political climate once a decision is made, is one of acceptance, focusing on things I have direct control over to make a difference and moving on, this is not what I observe with the millennial generation. Millennials dream big, they believe they can impact massive change, this is all great stuff, but I also have found a fair amount of disillusionment.
All of these influencers have a tremendous impact on organizational culture. I believe that most of the cultural changes have been extremely positive, of course not every change is rainbows and unicorns, but from a macro perspective, the changes have been extremely positive.
American Generation Fast Facts. (2017, August 27). Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/us/baby-boomer-generation-fast-facts/index.html
Glassdoor Job Search | Find the job that fits your life. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm
Myers, K. K., & Sadaghiani, K. (2010). Millennials in the workplace: A communication perspective on millennials’ organizational relationships and performance. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(2), 225-238.
Njoroge, C. N., & Yazdanifard, R. (2014). The impact of social and emotional intelligence on employee motivation in a multigenerational workplace. International Journal of Information, Business and Management, 6(4), 163.
Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2018). Essentials of organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson.
Steve, great post. You make a good point regarding the average number of jobs held in a lifetime. It’s interesting after reading your post, writing a couple myself as well as this weeks assignment, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about organizational behavior, corporate culture, etc… I also focused a fair amount of time on millennials as the lens which magnified an inevitable cultural shift.
As I think about the point you’ve brought up regarding the velocity and frequency with which people make jobs moves, I am reminded that in my field most people are incredibly focused on personal mastery, what they do is a lifestyle, it’s who they are. We all maintain Github repositories; spend hours a day reading and posting on StackOverflow, our day is spent time-slicing between corporate initiatives and contribution to Open Source projects, and we try to align the two as much as possible. The business seems to have less control than ever because they need the developers, but often struggle to quantify their activities. This is such a pervasive movement that books like “The New Kingmakers” have chronicled the developer sub-culture and the control it commands.
“‘GitHub’s Zack Holman suggests that employers should “[i]mprison your employees with happiness and nice things and cuddly work processes.’ GitHub itself does just that with flexible hours, excellent compensation and benefits packages, an enjoyable work environment, an in-house kegorator, and more. The results speak for themselves: incredibly, GitHub has never lost an employee.” (Ogrady, 2013, p. 47)
If you know you have an insanely motivated workforce, the case for “The New Kingmakers” then you just need to figure out how to hold onto them. Easier said than done, companies might want you to do X, Y or Z, all might be reasonable requests, but “The New Kingmaker” will just go next door.
Build software better, together. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://github.com/
OGrady, S. (2013). The New Kingmakers. OReilly Media.
Stack Overflow – Where Developers Learn, Share, & Build Careers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://stackoverflow.com/