What I’m reading now

If your employees come into the office each day, it’s natural to think that they’re engaged and well-connected with one another.

Question to readers: What do you think about working remotely, does it make people more or less engaged?

Guest Post: Gen Y in the Workplace… According to Gen Y

Everything is bound to change over time.  Looking back through history, the workplace has been continuously evolving, forcing each generation to adapt.  We hear stories from our parents and grandparents and get a glimpse of how things have evolved:  Work environment, technology, communication, wages, and career growth.  All of these factors have influenced every generation differently, Generation Y, included.

In many ways, we Gen Y’ers are different than the previous generations.  We grew up with cell phones, texting, personal computers, IPods, GPS, and so many other inventions that past generations thought to be impossible.  Basic technology has become second nature for Generation Y; it is everywhere.  Typing and computer skills have become the equivalent of being able to read or add and subtract.  No longer are young, Generation Y parents giving their children a rattle to play with.  Instead, they hand them an Ipad so they can watch cartoons at any given moment.

As Generation Y’ers, we have so many resources at hand.  Search engines and websites like Google and Yahoo open up a world of information to us that we can utilize on our own.  Since we grew up learning this technology and these resources, they have become natural skills, often giving us a leg up on the competition.

And with the recent economic conditions, many of us have found ourselves competing for jobs with previous generations.  My senior year of college, I found myself studying for finals in the James Madison University library next to a man about twenty years my senior.  After talking for a few minutes, he explained that he lost his job in the recent recession and decided to go back to school.  As I went back to studying, I watched him struggle with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on his laptop, and it occurred to me; he did not grow up learning this technology like I had.  I began showing him a few tricks in excel, and it was interesting to see how someone from a previous generation attempted to learn the application.  It was completely different from the way I learned and grasped information.  This was a perfect example that still stands out in my mind of how our workplace has evolved and how our generation can be leveraged to teach older generations technological skills.

Still there are many aspects of the marketplace we can learn from past generations, making it vital to keep communication open and frequent.  And perhaps this is the biggest workplace change of this generation: collaborative learning – that’s not just top down, but bottom up as well.

Written by: Mike O’Shaughnessy, Senior Consultant at IBM

Insights from the Work/Life TweetChat

In the beginning of July, I hosted a TweetChat on work life management that was joined by Ellen Galinsky, Cali Yost, and Joe Robinson, among others. A few themes emerged from this chat that I would like to touch on:

The implications of “balance” – When we think of the word “balance,” we think 50/50, two things on a scale, neither outweighing the other. However, in this context, balance can be misleading. In a previous blog entry, I referred to managing our jobs and personal lives, not as a perfect balancing act, but as a preparation for imbalance – where in fact we must be willing to admit that work and life will not always be equals. During our TweetChat, Yost and Galinsky used the term “work life fit,” while others use terms like “management” or “integration.” No matter what term you use, it’s important to set realistic expectations and find the fit that works best for you.

Autonomy vs. total control – Prompted by a question from Robinson about what makes a difference in quality of work-life for a person, Galinsky responded, “Autonomy.” This might prompt questions in your mind about the definition of the word. Does it mean that the employee decides what she works on and for how many hours a day? Is the employee her own boss? No, Galinsky went on to say, “Autonomy isn’t total control – [it] needs to work for the employee and the employer (just as in any relationship)!” As an example, an employee may be required to be available for meetings in the evening (this is what works for the employer), but she asks that meetings do not take place between 6-9PM so that she can spend time with her kids (this is what works for the employee). The employee gives up some control of her evenings, but the employer allows her the autonomy to decide her hours. In this case, some flexibility by both parties results in mutual satisfaction.

Imposition of limits – “If you wish to live with a continually renewing sense of success that really seems worthwhile and lasting on all your success targets, you have to give up the standards of maximization,” writes Howard Stevenson of the Harvard Business Publishing Company board. What Stevenson is referring to is the understanding and imposing of limits.

 

  • Understanding – There are limits to what an individual or an organization can accomplish. Unfortunately, despite folklore and fairytales, we cannot be the best at everything. To succeed in life and to have satisfaction in our successes, we have to be willing to accept that this fact is not synonymous with failure. While Warren Buffet may be among the best at investing, he certainly isn’t the best tennis player, and the opposite likely applies to Roger Federer. However, neither of these gentlemen would be considered failures. In spite of their limitations, we consider them to be great successes.

 

  • Imposing – The first step in work life management is always to determine your priorities. Once you do this, you can set boundaries that allow you to succeed at these goals. This doesn’t just apply to work, but to your personal life as well. The key component of imposing limits is to communicate your boundaries, thereby enabling others to aid, instead of inhibit your goals.

 

What do you think about the themes we discussed during the TweetChat? How do they relate to your own experiences with managing your professional and personal life?