Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Generational Collision in the Workplace

Yesterday I went to a panel on working across generations, sponsored by the National Council for Research on Women's Corporate Circle. Entering Weil Gotshal's shiny headquarters at the bottom of Central Park, I had one of those moments where I wonder why I went academic instead of corporate. The lunches (seared tuna and roasted vegetables)! The fact that some of these firms are even talking about generational differences and have programs like "Reverse Mentoring"! (That would be Merrill Lynch.) The fact that some are genuinely trying to reframe workplace flexibility from employee benefit to something that managers can't afford not to have. If all of corporate America looked like this particular panel, I'd jump ship in a heartbeat and come join their team. In fact, hmmm...But I digress.

Ellen Galinsky of Families & Work Institute was on the panel and served up a number of interesting tidbits from an earlier study called Generation and Gender in the Workplace, such as:

-Boomers are more likely to be work-centric than other generations, and Gens X and Y more dual-centric (meaning, they place the same priority on their job and family) or family-centric
-younger men are spending more time with their children
-men report more work/life conflict than in the past
-dual-centric and family-centric workers are actually LESS stressed than work-centric worker bees

And my personal favorite:

-if there are tensions in the workplace, they're NOT primarily between women with kids and women without, as the media loves to overblow; the REAL tensions are between people in high-status jobs vs. those in low-status jobs - which means, I take it, that the real collisions have to do class and generation

And speaking of, I came across an interesting book the other day: When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, and How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work. Along with Kara Jesella's Sassy book, this should be great airplane reading for tomorrow. I'm off to sweet home Chicago for the Council on Contemporary Families Anniversary conference, where I'm on a panel with the divine Miss Virginia Rutter. We'll be talking to researchers and clinicians about pitching and translating research. Off to make my handouts...

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